CHARLOTTE - In many ways, opening day of the Panthers' minicamp Tuesday looked exactly like the final day of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) last week.
There were notable differences, however, including who was on the field and what was taking place off the field.
Linebacker Jon Beason took the latest step in his rehab by participating in team drills, and the entire team had more classroom time as allowed by the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and added to by Mother Nature.
"It's nice to have him on the football field again," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said of Beason, who took it easy on his left Achilles during OTAs. "Just his presence helps us as a defense. We missed out on that last year."
Rivera considered putting Beason's return on hold when rain created slippery conditions on the Bank of America Stadium practice fields, but the fields held up nicely and Beason performed well enough in individual drills to put Rivera at ease.
The Panthers had planned on opening the three-day camp with a morning walk-through and a late-afternoon practice, but in light of a forecast of afternoon showers, they called off the walk-through and practiced instead.
That only added to the meeting time afforded the team. Regardless of Tuesday's schedule change, the CBA allows for 10 hours of "Club activities" per day during the mandatory minicamp after it only allowed six hours a day during OTAs.
"We'll get a lot more meeting time these next three of days and a lot more time to study film and things like that," tight end Greg Olsen said. "It's good."
Tuesday brought a double blessing for linebacker Luke Kuechly, the Panthers' first-round draft pick. In addition to getting valuable on-field time with Beason, he got extra classroom time as he continues his transition from college to the pros.
"Jon Beason, James Anderson, Thomas Davis, Jordan Senn - all of those guys have been helpful, just talking about small things, situations, formations," Kuechly said. "They know what it's like. It's good when they rub off on you.
"It's a process, and every day you learn something new. As long as you're learning one or two new things a day and not really messing up what you learned the previous day, you're doing all right."
Kuechly said that minicamp seemed a lot like OTAs, though he's still adjusting to the differences between college and pro practices.
"In college, when you went no shoulder pads with helmets, it wasn't as crisp as this," he said. "It was more about everyone running around and getting loose, but here everyone is faster, the ball is there on time, and everybody is moving.
"But it's relatively the same as it was last week. We just have a couple more meetings and the day is a little longer."
Rivera categorized the first day of minicamp as the 11th OTA, but he didn't discount the difference that a name can make.
"The energy level was a little bit up because of perception, that it's a minicamp as opposed to an OTA practice," Rivera said. "We had a lot of energy out there, and I'm pretty excited about some of the things that I saw. Some of our guys did some really nice things for us."