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Camp observations: Goal-line action

Goal-line defense

SPARTANBURG — Last week, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule wasn't wild about the way his team responded to a day off.

Sunday morning, he decided to get their attention.

The highlight of Sunday's session was a period of live goal-line work, and while Rhule's always going to find things to correct when he looks back at film, he liked the way his team reacted to them.

"There's two things," Rhule began. "You come off a day off, and a lot of teams usually come out lethargic. I think last week, after a day off, I wasn't too pleased. Secondly, when you say it's live goal line, it's short yardage, 9-on-7, team run, you find out a little bit about your team. Do they push back, or do they accept it?

"At the end, our ones were screaming to go out there again. It's live goal line, they got their four reps, and they wanted one more shot. That part of it I liked. We've got things we've got to work on, but that part I liked."

They're still rolling personnel in and out, and backup defensive tackle Bravvion Roy had a nice stop when playing with the ones in the place of veteran DaQuan Jones.

The spirit of the thing was infectious, and the defense in general got the better of the work.

Outside linebacker Haason Reddick brightened up when asked about the drill, and said there was an elemental quality that made it easy to enjoy.

"Goal-line is a man's game," Reddick said. "The game itself is a man's game, but goal line is a man's, man's game. There's no way around it, it's a battle to see who can get the most push. The fact we were out there competing, going live, you love to see it.

"You don't know how many times in the year you're going to be in goal-line, but when it happens, you know it's time to really bring it. We got to get pushback, for offense it's like we've got to get in the end zone. So it's a man's man's game."

— It's hard to simulate pressure on special-teamers in practice, but Rhule created some real consequences for kicker Joey Slye Sunday.

Before Slye lined up for a 53-yard field goal to end practice, Rhule called up the team and said if he missed, players would have to run a series of sprints. If he hit, coaches would run.

Suffice it to say, Slye became more popular by hitting the field goal, and Rhule was sweating when he arrived for his post-practice presser.

"Usually you root for the kicker to make the kick," he said. "I might have been rooting for him to miss it."

Sunday was the hottest fully padded practice of camp so far, after the schedule was pushed back an hour.

Coaches, staff running

— Rhule spent some time going through some of the players who flashed in camp, singling out wide receiver C.J. Saunders as a guy quarterbacks appreciate, saying they "love throwing him the ball, because they know he's going to go get it."

Rhule also mentioned wide receiver Omar Bayless and safety Sean Chandler as guys who continue to make plays in practice, and there may be another name coming up through the ranks.

Reddick said he got a kick out of seeing reserve linebacker Paddy Fisher in the goal line work, as the rookie from Northwestern forced a fumble and had a couple of stops.

Panthers TV Network analyst Steve Smith Sr. singled Fisher out during Friday's Fan Fest, and while Smith has a long track record of advocating for undrafteds and lower-round guys, he said Fisher has caught his eye.

— The injury report is getting a little longer, though there was one notable return Sunday.

Linebacker Shaq Thompson was back to full participation after missing a week with a minor soft-tissue injury.

Wide receiver Robby Anderson remains in Florida, excused to take care of a family issue.

"I told him, to me, family and stuff like that's more important than anything else, so go handle it and come back when you can," Rhule said of Anderson.

Center Matt Paradis left practice with some tightness in his back, and Rhule said he would be excused tomorrow anyway, so they let him duck out early. Guard John Miller had a veteran's day off.

Defensive tackle Caraun Reid left practice late. There was a long list of players held out and wearing red jerseys — including cornerback A.J. Bouye, linebacker Denzel Perryman, safeties Kenny Robinson and Myles Hartsfield, and wide receivers Keith Kirkwood and Krishawn Hogan.

— With Miller out Sunday, Dennis Daley got an extended look with the first team at right guard. Miller's also in the mix for a tackle job, and could be the top reserve at multiple spots if he can stay healthy. Matt Kaskey also got some snaps with the first line at left guard, when Pat Elflein shifted inside to center after Paradis left practice.

View photos from Sunday's training camp practice at Wofford.

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