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Camp Observations: Jeremy Chinn gets to count his interception

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SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Jeremy Chinn barely had enough time to celebrate his big interception during Saturday's practice, held in Wofford's Gibbs Stadium for Back Together Saturday.

Chinn picked off a Sam Darnold pass during a team blitz period and ran it back to the end zone. But just after Chinn tossed the ball up in excitement, head coach Matt Rhule brought the team in for a talk.

The official had ruled the defense was offsides, so Rhule said he "brought everyone in and lost it." Then, the official made an adjustment – the offense actually should've been called for a false start.

So Chinn got his interception, and Rhule corrected his error.

"I retracted my statement," Rhule said. "I'd like to say it's not my fault, but when you're the head coach, it all falls on you."

Chinn's interception counted, and the third-year safety got to tally his big play for the defense, which found success on Saturday in front of fans, families, and plenty of former Panthers.

Last season, Chinn was the Panthers' leader in tackles with 106. His Saturday pick added to the defense's early push for more takeaways during camp.

Defensive end Darryl Johnson also brought down an interception in Saturday's camp, catching a pass from Baker Mayfield in the same blitz period. Those were the first turnovers since Keith Taylor Jr.'s pick on the first day of practice.

"That's the goal," Chinn said. "We did that today. As we're going in the right direction, we'll continue to build off of it."

– Saturday brought an end to training camp's acclimation period, before the Panthers put pads on for the first time Monday. The first four days of work have been non-padded and non-contact, to give players a chance to ease into the grind of a long season.

Rhule said he was pleased with what he'd seen so far in camp and noted the real work begins next week, after the Panthers take an off day Sunday.

"This was a four-day acclimation period (to) learn things, get our legs back underneath them," Rhule said. "(I'm) very happy with where we are. I think the competition, growth, and development is awesome right now. With all that being said, camp to me really starts on Monday, when we put the pads on."

– Cornerback Jaycee Horn did not participate Saturday while he continues to manage foot soreness. Rhule said the Panthers' first-round pick of the 2021 draft is "getting better" and that they're looking to have him back on the field, though he didn't provide a time frame.

"(I) can't say exactly when," Rhule said. "But hoping that it's going to be really soon."

– Shi Smith turned heads with an acrobatic touchdown catch in Saturday's practice, snatching a ball from Darnold in heavy coverage.

"Since the spring, he has been doing a really nice job," Rhule said. "And (he) made some really nice plays today."

– Former Panthers Steve Smith Sr. and Thomas Davis visited camp Saturday, joining fans and many players' families to cap off the first four days in Spartanburg.

Hall of Honor tight end Wesley Walls was also in attendance, lending some star power to a day that included the biggest crowd of camp.

View photos of practice from Gibbs Stadium on Saturday at training camp.

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