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Curtis Samuel continues inching toward a return


CHARLOTTE -- For the first time since the Panthers opening practice at training camp, Curtis Samuel joined his fellow receivers for individual drills.

The second-round pick, who's coming back from a strained hamstring, only went through a few reps Tuesday simulating press coverage at the line before he was again held out during longer routes.

So it wasn't much, but it was something.

"He's getting a little bit more work," head coach Ron Rivera said. "Hopefully we can increase that tomorrow and Thursday."

Samuel, who spent the rest of practice rehabbing on the side – work that included a handful of wind sprints - will make Tuesday afternoon's trip to Tennessee for two days of joint practices. But he's still not ready for a full workload.  

"He won't do anything live against anybody," Rivera continued, "but we're going to try to increase his individual work and kind of work him up that way."

Timing troubles

For the most part, Cam Newton picked up where he left off in Spartanburg.

Like we saw Sunday, the quarterback was mostly limited to throwing during individual drills and a red zone period. On Tuesday, he did toss a couple of passes during move-the-ball team drills, but they were each of the short variety.

It's unclear how much Newton will do in Tennessee, but as a number of misfires showed Tuesday, his timing with intended receivers remains a work in progress.

"That's something he'll work through," Rivera said. "It's about getting his rhythm and his timing back with the whole group. I believe the other day he looked very good, but today you could see he was off here, off there."

Other injury updates

Guys who didn't practice: Samuel, wide receiver Fred Ross (foot), cornerback Corn Elder (knee), running back Jalen Simmons (undisclosed), offensive lineman Chris Scott (undisclosed), tight end Scott Simonson (hamstring) and defensive tackles Vernon Butler (knee) and Kyle Love (ankle).

Guys who returned: Wide receiver Brenton Bersin (quad) and offensive tackle Amini Silatolu (undisclosed).

You can't teach 6-foot-5

Because the Panthers weren't in full pads and much of the focus was on installing plays, Tuesday's practice was mostly nondescript. But Kelvin Benjamin had a moment worth noting.

With Benjamin running an out route against linebacker Shaq Thompson, Derek Anderson placed a pass where only Benjamin could get it. The tall wideout did just that, using his long wingspan to reel in the ball before tapping two feet inbounds.

When asked if a play like that was even defensible, Rivera replied:

"No. If you anticipate it and get your jump in, you have a chance. But he's so long and strong-handed that once he can grab that ball, it's tough to knock it out."

On to Tennessee

In 2015, when the Panthers last participated in joint practices, they and the Dolphins got along surprisingly well. The only notable flare-up was between offensive tackle Michael Oher and Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon, and that was squashed quickly.

Now as the Panthers head to Tennessee, Rivera is hopeful for two more mostly peaceful practices.

"The whole focus is the practice, it's not to get into and BS or anything like that," he said. "I've talked with Coach (Mike) Mularkey, and we're going to do the best we can to contain that. We really believe it's a great opportunity to work against a new set of people, a new set of philosophies and ideas. It should help the players, and it will give us a great opportunity to evaluate."

Rivera reiterated he's willing to toss his own players from practice if they cross a line because there actually is something teams can get from these get-togethers.

"We're out here competing against each other, and our offense will make a call and the defense will know. The defense will make a call and the offense will know. Now we're be practicing against guys who have no idea," Rivera said.

"I liked what we did in 2015. I thought we learned a little bit about our football team. It's a real good way to get a good measuring stick other than playing in the (preseason) games."

View photos from Carolina's first practice back in Charlotte following training camp.

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