CHARLOTTE – After some post-practice conditioning, Jon Beason walked off the practice field drenched in sweat and out of breath.
And the linebacker was more than happy to talk about a day's work in the rain.
"You know what, I'm just happy to be back out there," Beason said, still catching his breath. "I don't care about what shape (I'm in), what I did right, what I did wrong. I just miss the grind, me and my teammates messing around, hanging in the huddle.
"Long overdue, you know what I mean?"
Beason's recovery from offseason surgery on his right knee kept him out of practice throughout training camp. Sunday's padded practice marked the first time he took the field since OTAs, and he participated again on Monday.
"It felt good. If it didn't feel good I wouldn't have (practiced) today," Beason said. "We increased (the workload) a little bit today, and it felt good – I actually wanted to do more."
Playing in the preseason is on Beason's to-do list and while that's yet to be determined, he said he'd "love to play" Thursday against the Baltimore Ravens.
"I'm trying to get as much as I can right now. I need to get back into football shape, get my reads down and just get used to playing again," Beason said. "As much as I can do now I am going to do – obviously being smart knowing that the goal is still the 8th (of September)."
With the regular season opener in mind, head coach Ron Rivera said the team will continue to take a cautious approach with its starting weakside linebacker.
"We're going to see," Rivera said. "We've got one more day to watch and see how he is. We don't want to be foolish. It's great to have him back, and he's a dynamic football player that has meant a lot to this organization. We've got to get him out there. We see what he can do. We know what he can do."
And the Panthers may explore some creative possibilities with the three-time Pro Bowler when he returns to full strength.
"As Jon gets stronger and stronger, better and better, we're going to have to find a role other than just being our starting WILL because he's such a dynamic player," Rivera said. "We've got to find ways to rotate those three guys and keep them on the field as much as possible. We've got to be a little creative in talking to (defensive coordinator) Sean (McDermott) about some of the different things we can do with that package.
"Three down linemen and three linebackers, two down linemen and three linebackers - we've got to really explore the possibilities if he's going to be as productive as he has been in the past."
Beason is determined to recapture that form.
"I just want to re-establish myself individually," Beason said. "I want to contribute. I want to lead. And I want to win football games."