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Camp observations: Panthers getting ready for Ravens

Brian Burns

SPARTANBURG — The Panthers had a short and uneventful practice Tuesday afternoon.

It should not be either of those things the next two days.

Having a light day Tuesday was mainly a chance to get out of the rain and ready for what should be another physical set of joint practices.

After last week's work with the Colts, the Panthers are welcoming the Ravens to Wofford College for the next two days, for what Panthers head coach Matt Rhule anticipates being another challenge.

It's also a very different one, as the Ravens walk in with a completely different kind of quarterback and run game with Lamar Jackson, and a different defensive alignment (the Ravens are a 3-4 base with a different array of pressures to give quarterback Sam Darnold a new look), and a veteran coach who has implemented a particular style over the years.

"You're talking about elite defenses, but different styles of defenses," Rhule said. "You're talking about completely different styles of offenses, but at the core, two really good teams, two playoff teams. I think for us, you look at John Harbaugh; he always has great special teams so that's good for our special teams to work against. Their run game and physicality is going to be great for our defense to work against. And their defense is going to be great for our offense to work against. I think for Sam, all the different blitz packages and things he's going to see are going to be difficult.

"I really don't care if we have a great day tomorrow or not a great day tomorrow in terms of seeing things. I just want us to see things. I want us to have a great day in terms of effort and physicality and toughness and all those things. I want us to be challenged."

— Of course, the Ravens have had their own challenges this summer, with some of their top players either just coming back from layoffs or missing time.

Jackson had a long break early, missing the first 10 days of camp after testing positive for COVID-19 for a second time.

Cornerback Marlon Humphrey, one of the best in the game, left practice early Tuesday with what was reported as a mild strain, and didn't finish practice.

They've also recently lost rookie wide receiver Rashod Bateman. The first-rounder had groin surgery, and it's unclear if he'll be ready for the regular-season opener. The Ravens have had a hard time keeping receivers available this offseason, as Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, and Deon Cain have also missed significant practice time. Sammy Watkins is still there, but they remain thin at what has been a problematic position for them in recent years.

— Ravens backup quarterback Trace McSorley's going to miss the rest of the preseason, after throwing out his back lifting a box.

I have never had more in common with an NFL quarterback.

That leaves Tyler Huntley, a former undrafted rookie from Utah, as the backup to Jackson for the next few days. He ran for a touchdown late in Saturday's win over the Ravens. That was their 18th straight preseason win, as they haven't lost an exhibition game since 2015. So obviously, history is on the line.

— Since Tuesday's session was so casual (it was mainly a walk-through), there wasn't a lot to point out from the practice itself, beyond attendance.

Offensive lineman Dennis Daley was back after being excused last week. Safety Myles Hartsfield was also back on the field after a brief injury absence.

Running backs Reggie Bonnafon and Rodney Smith were held out, along with cornerback A.J. Bouye, linebacker Denzel Perryman, and defensive lineman Caraun Reid.

Wide receiver Keith Kirkwood was up to the green jersey of limited players, the closest he's been to participation since suffering a concussion on Aug. 3, the first day in pads.

— The Panthers made six roster moves Tuesday, getting them to 84, or one below the limit. They traded tackle Greg Little to the Dolphins for a seventh-round pick in 2022, placed cornerback Troy Pride Jr. on injured reserve after he tore his ACL in Sunday's game against the Colts, released veteran fullback Rod Smith and waived-injured offensive linemen Mike Panasiuk and Matt Kaskey and linebacker Nate Hall.

— Rhule was asked about dealing Little, a 2019 second-round pick, for a nearly negligible return.

He said that a number of teams had inquired about Little, and he thought a change of scenery might be good for the 23-year-old. (That's also fairly similar to what they said when they traded for a former Jets first-round quarterback in March.)

"It just never really quite worked out," Rhule said. "I always believe guys are going to continue to improve and get better and he was doing that, he was working. Just figured this was the best move for us, let him go somewhere they needed him."

— Rhule also had the quote of the day, acknowledging the still-unsettled nature of his offensive line. He's still confident in the normal starting five (which includes Cameron Erving at left tackle and Taylor Moton on the right), but understands it's still very much in flux.

"We feel good about our starting five, and two or three more guys there we feel good about," he said. "But we're a work in progress. We're like I-85 on the way down here — we're under construction. We've got some work to do."

Hopefully they get it smoothed out sooner than I-85, which has seemingly been under construction since the Panthers started coming here in 1995.

View photos from Tuesday's walk-through training camp practice at Wofford.

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