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Camp Observations: Rashard Higgins gets (too) flashy 


SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Rashard Higgins and Baker Mayfield weren't going to let Saturday's scrimmage come and go without some fireworks.

The duo connected on a deep touchdown pass when a wide-open Higgins caught a well-placed ball from a guy he knows well.

Higgins played six seasons with the Browns from 2016-21, including four with Mayfield, and the two have shown throughout camp that they can bring some chemistry from Cleveland to Carolina.

Their latest play was flashy and explosive, which head coach Matt Rhule liked from an offensive point of view. But a premature celebration by Higgins, when he reached the ball across the goal line early, caused the offense to run a gasser.

"Great play by Hig. He made a great touchdown catch," Rhule said. "But I wanted to make sure they all understood that we don't win if we don't protect the football."

– Defensive end Marquis Haynes Sr. went down midway through practice due to an apparent left leg injury.

Trainers attended to Haynes after the injury before teammates Matt Ioannidis and Brian Burns helped escort him off the field and into a cart.

Ioannidis, Burns and Donte Jackson appeared to pray with Haynes before he was carted away, and the team gathered after the scrimmage to say another prayer.

Rhule said he didn't have any immediate updates on Haynes' condition after practice.

Haynes' injury further complicated the dynamic of an already thin position. The Panthers had previously been looking to add a pass rusher before Haynes went down. Should Haynes' injury turn out to be serious, the Panthers may be forced to expedite the process of finding more help on the edge.

– Mayfield and Sam Darnold once again took turns leading the first and second-team offenses, which will continue throughout camp and into the preseason.

Rhule said he wouldn't be making "major decisions" at any position before the second week of the preseason when the Panthers travel to New England for joint practices and a game.

"I think the Patriots week is like the true litmus test for us of, 'Hey, where are we really?'" Rhule said. "We're going against another team. We're practicing. I think that'll really show us where guys are."

– Cornerback CJ Henderson wore a red jersey and did not participate after rolling his ankle in practice Friday. Rhule said Henderson's injury "shouldn't be long term."

Henderson's absence is another blow to the Panthers' cornerback room, which is depleted while Jaycee Horn (foot soreness), Keith Taylor Jr. (hamstring) and Duke Dawson also remain out.

– Rhule said he was impressed by "explosive" plays from both Mayfield and Darnold on Saturday, but he also took note of both quarterbacks' interceptions.

They each threw one pick, though Mayfield's interception appeared to be a strong play from Myles Hartsfield, who ripped the ball out of DJ Moore's hands.

Rhule said he would wait to review film before deciding whether or not the interception was an error on Mayfield's part, but he did compliment Hartsfield's performance at Wofford.

"Myles Hartsfield has to be one of the guys who's coming along at a high level during this camp," Rhule said. "I can't say enough about what Myles has done."

Darnold was intercepted on the right sideline by Tae Hayes, who signed Thursday to help add depth to the Panthers' cornerback spot.

– Rookie offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu saw more reps at the starting left tackle spot, which moved Brady Christensen over to left guard. Christensen also worked at left tackle, with Michael Jordan at guard.

Pat Elflein and Bradley Bozeman split reps at center.

Rhule said all of the offensive linemen had rep counts heading into practice and that all decisions would be "based on merit."

– The coaching staff all wore "Keep Pounding" T-shirts to commemorate Sam Mills' induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"It was an honor to wear Sam Mills' shirt today," Rhule said. "Wish the Mills family a ton of grace, peace, happiness and joy today as he goes into the Hall of Fame. JJ Jansen got up yesterday and talked about what Keep Pounding meant to him. It was emotional. It was powerful. Hope everyone celebrates today."

View some of the best action shots from Saturday's practice at Wofford.

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