CHARLOTTE – Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was counting on the Fan Fest crowd to help lift his team through the end of its first full week of training camp.
An announced crowd of 20,134 did its part, providing an exciting atmosphere for practice at Bank of America Stadium, and the players responded.
"I'm happy. I'm really pleased with the way the guys came out and performed," Rivera said. "It's been a long week. Yesterday was a tough day – a little hot, a little muggy - and the guys kind of dragged.
"I was kind of hoping they would come out and the crowd would bring them a little bit of energy, and they did. The guys reacted, and I thought it was a good day of practice all the way around."
It may have just been practice, but the Panthers were determined to reward the fans for spending their Saturday afternoon observing drills from the stands.
"It means a lot to our players that we've got support, that we've got our fans supporting us," Rivera said. "It's exciting. They brought some energy to practice today."
Rivera singled out the quarterbacks and linebackers as groups that impressed during the session. He also praised Mike Mitchell, who continues to make a strong case for the starting strong safety position.
"Mike Mitchell continues to stand out, he really does," Rivera said. "He had another good day."
Highlight plays included pinpoint touchdown passes during the red zone drill from quarterback Cam Newton to two of his favorite targets – wide receiver Steve Smith and tight end Greg Olsen.
But the best catch of the day came courtesy of Armanti Edwards, who broke away from cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and hauled in Newton's deep pass over his shoulder as he fell across the goal line.
"There's another guy that's had a great camp," Rivera said in regards to Edwards. "He's earned it. He's worked very hard. He's done everything we've asked him to do, and I'm excited for Armanti."
Additionally, Munnerlyn and fellow-cornerback Josh Norman recorded interceptions for a secondary that continues to make plays on the ball, and kicker Graham Gano knocked in a 63-yard field goal.
"I was pleased overall," Rivera said. "We still have a long way to go. By no means are we where we want to be, but we took a big step today.
"This physical part of camp was important – to set the tone and tempo for who we want to be."
HEALTH UPDATE: As expected, linebacker Jon Beason (hamstring), running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle) and guard Edmund Kugbila (hamstring) did not participate, and linebacker Thomas Davis (hamstring) partook in the position drills.
Guard Amini Silatolu (groin) and defensive end Charles Johnson (back) were held out for precautionary reasons, while wide receiver Domenik Hixon, who suffered a leg injury on Friday, also did not practice.
Also, rookie defensive tackle Linden Gaydosh (back) cleared waivers and reverted to injured reserve.