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Carolina Panthers

2023 Training Camp Observations: Day 2

Bryce Young, Josh McCown

SPARTANBURG – Bryce Young's first training camp isn't going to be all sunshine and dime throws.

There will be some miscommunications, hiccups, and mistakes. Young's first interception in Spartanburg came on an exceptionally toasty second practice, as CJ Henderson swooped right in the path of a short pass and returned the ball during a seven-on-seven period.

"It was a miscommunication on a stick route, as far as coming out versus running out – so normal stuff," head coach Frank Reich said. "I mean, you don't like it, (but) we'll get it cleaned up."

Of course, that's not to say that the consistently level-headed Young had an especially off day. He made a highlight-worthy deep connection with DJ Chark Jr. (much like he did Wednesday) and found fellow rookie Jonathan Mingo on a diving catch.

Henderson wasn't the only one who came down with a pick Thursday. Linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill intercepted Andy Dalton for a second day in a row, and Brandon Smith picked off a pass as well. Miles Sanders recovered his own fumble after a handoff, part of a few rough spots for the offense.

Reich said he felt like all three phases started the day "crisp and sharp," but he noticed a bit of a fall-off, at least on the offensive side, as the second half of practice progressed.

Such is the acclimation period, the first week of camp, learning together; Reich said it's no reason to be concerned.

"We're going to make mistakes," Reich said. "About halfway through practice, at least on offense, where my eyes were a little bit more, it just felt like a little bit of a lull. A few too many turnovers and mistakes. But you don't panic. You learn from those, and you've got to bounce back."

— Even if there were a few miscues in practice Thursday, Young impressed his teammates with his performance in the rookie talent show.

The charisma he brought to a Keyshia Cole number might have caught them a little off guard.

"We didn't know what to expect, but he got up there and killed it," veteran linebacker Shaq Thompson said.

Young's soft-spoken demeanor might have lulled teammates, but Thompson said he was a new man when he had a microphone in his hand.

"Bryce set the stage; he had a hell of a performance," Thompson said. "Hell of a performance. ... Everybody enjoyed it. Guys were into it. I'm trying to tell you, it was like a concert. He set the stage.

"Seeing that personality out of him. That was good for us to see. Good for him to be up there. It went well. It shocked us; he had so much personality. Yesterday, that was a whole different Bryce. It was good to see."

Left tackle Ikem Ekwonu — who drew rave reviews for his own performance last year, which figures since he was a musical theater kid growing up — said Young topped him.

"Last year, they didn't sign along with me. They clapped it up; I got a standing ovation. But we definitely sang along with Bryce, so I've got to give it to him," Ekwonu said. "He brought the house down."

Bradley Bozeman, Bryce Young, Brady Christensen

— Speaking of talent, guard Nash Jensen also got high marks for his signing voice, performing a Josh Turner song after Young had the crowd properly warmed up. Veteran long snapper JJ Jansen called it "a great performance, incredible voice."

The rookie from North Dakota State's also earning some notice on the field. He worked with the starting offensive line at both guard spots over the course of the second practice, as they try to cultivate some depth behind what has become a stable first group.

– Several returners worked with assistant special teams coach Devin Fitzsimmons during individual periods, giving a glimpse into the competition to field kicks and punts this season.

Through the early days of training camp, Damiere Byrd, Raheem Blackshear, Shi Smith, Josh Vann, and C.J. Saunders appear to be in the running.

— The Panthers were a man short for most of the practice, as veteran outside linebacker Marquis Haynes Sr. left the session early. He was getting stretched by members of the athletic training staff in the tent between fields and didn't return to work.

He lined up with the starters Wednesday, opposite Brian Burns.

In his absence, Yetur Gross-Matos worked with the ones.

Otherwise, the group on the side was limited to the four players still on the active/physically unable to perform list.

Cornerbacks Donte Jackson and Jaycee Horn continued to add to their workload, with Horn taking most of the reps until the very end of practice.

— For the second time in as many days, Grugier-Hill picked off a pass, and Thompson thinks he has the ability to be much more than a special teams player here.

Grugier-Hill is behind Thompson and Frankie Luvu, but Thompson has been impressed with what he's seen so far.

"Kamu is one of those guys that's like a silent killer," Thompson said. "They brought him in for special teams, but I definitely think he's going to be one of those guys who's playing. They got to put him on the field, some how, some way.

"He's making plays; he's fast, he's smart, he's a veteran. You definitely have to find a way to get him on the field."

— Chark and Mingo highlighted a solid group of receivers so far in camp.

Chark started going through the entire group during a post-practice press conference and threw in a little shade for elder Adam Thielen in the process.

"He runs like he's 26," Chark said. "Which is pretty impressive since he's not."

Chark also revealed that in his conversations with Young during their offseason work in Texas, that he learned a lot about him as a person, including that he drove for DoorDash when he was a freshman at Alabama.

"I don't know if I was supposed to say that," Chark said with a shrug.

— Those receivers had some prestigious company on Thursday, as Hall of Honor wideouts Steve Smith Sr. and Muhsin Muhammad were here to see them.

They're the latest of a parade of alumni to roll through practices this year, which Reich has encouraged.

View photos of players arriving to practice on Thursday.

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