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Carolina Panthers

Energetic Russell Shepard immediately stands out


CHARLOTTE – When he signed with the Panthers as a free agent, wide receiver Russell Shepard spoke about the energy he'll bring when he steps on the field.

He backed that up during Carolina's first OTA practice session.

Shepard was one of the most vocal players on the field, hyping up offensive teammates and yapping with members of the defense.

"That's probably half the reason why I'm here," Shepard said after his first organized practice with the Panthers. "You can't fake the funk, you can't fake the energy. I learned that awhile ago and I try to apply that every time I step on the field."

And when his number was called, Shepard made plays. He came down with tough catches in traffic on several occasions and also found a way to get open with short patterns underneath.

"It was so fun, man," Shepard said. "This is what we do and it brings peace to you, especially being on a new team, a new environment."

Most who follow the Panthers are still getting acquainted with the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer, but it's clear quarterback Cam Newton is already a big fan of the new No. 19.

Newton, vocal and energetic as always despite being unable to practice, was constantly praising "Shep!" after receptions during the team period.

It became obvious very quickly that those two approach the game the same way.

"He's a talker, I'm a talker. We're passionate individuals," Shepard said. "Those kind of people either hate each other or love each other. That's my quarterback, so I love him. We definitely click."

And although it's early and Shepard hasn't yet caught a pass from Newton, the newcomer feels like coordinator Mike Shula's offense will put him in position to take the next step as a wide receiver.

"I became real close to my head coach in Tampa, Dirk Koetter, and Dirk spoke very highly of Coach Shula's offense," said Shepard, who posted career bests with 23 receptions and 341 yards last season. "After seeing the first two weeks of install, I'm super excited to be in this offense. The receivers get a lot of freedom and I just have to take advantage of my opportunities, cut it loose and keep making plays."

View photos from the first week of Carolina's organized team activities.

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