SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin was back on the practice field Tuesday but not in an official capacity, logging miles on an exercise bike and logging mental reps alongside quarterback Cam Newton and the coaching staff.
From the sound of things, it shouldn't be too long before Benjamin is back catching passes and capturing the attention of Panthers fans.
"I woke up this morning like a new man," Benjamin said. "I felt way better, but they're telling me to still take my time."
The athletic training staff wants to make sure the Panthers' first-round draft choice is fully healed from a bone bruise to his left knee sustained Sunday before he returns to practice. Benjamin also missed practice Monday when he returned to Charlotte for an MRI.
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Benjamin admitted to being nervous awaiting the results – "You always worry that it will be bad news," he said – but shortly after returning to Wofford College on Monday, he got the good news.
"It's minor," Benjamin said. "I'm going to come back even harder."
One of his fellow rookies, however, won't be coming back. Running back Tyler Gaffney, Carolina's sixth-round draft choice, was claimed off waivers by the New England Patriots on Monday after being waived/injured with a knee injury.
Gaffney would have been placed on injured reserve had he cleared waivers. The Panthers first put him on waivers because they needed to add a running back to the 90-man roster in light of injuries to Gaffney and Jonathan Stewart.
"Wow, that was a tough one," head coach Ron Rivera said. "That was surprising because we had him slated to have surgery and all that. But New England, I knew they liked him coming out of the draft. They made a move, and we'll just go from there.
"We're disappointed – we would have loved to been able to keep him – but we had to make a move, and that's where we are."
Another rookie, fifth-round draft choice Tre Boston, practiced for the first time Tuesday but not for the entire session. Boston, a safety from North Carolina who had been on the physically unable to perform list with a hernia injury, was carted off the field late in practice but appeared to be doing much better moments later.
"He's a little sore and probably got a little tired," Rivera said. "We'll find out."
Cornerback Josh Thomas (back) also practiced for the first time Tuesday, but safety Thomas DeCoud (lower leg) and defensive ends Wes Horton (groin) and Craig Roh (ankle) did not practice.
"It's something he's done before in the past, and hopefully it will calm down very quickly," Rivera said of DeCoud's injury. "This break will be good. He was off his feet today and he'll be off his feet tomorrow, and we'll evaluate him come Thursday morning."
The Panthers are scheduled to return to the practice field Thursday at 9:25 a.m.