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Carolina Panthers

Five Practice Observations: Day 1

1. Benjamin off to a great start: If wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin was nervous or tentative during his first full practice since tearing his ACL, he did a good job hiding it.

"It could be a good harbinger for us seeing Kelvin maybe not at top form but pretty doggone good form," head coach Ron Rivera said. "He's still got a ways to go to get back in game shape, but it was really good to see him move around like that."

Benjamin practiced with confidence and made tough catches look easy – something he did throughout last year's training camp prior to the injury.  

His first catch came on a slant in traffic and drew a big cheer from the fans who packed Gibbs Stadium. Later, he used his body to shield rookie cornerback Daryl Worley on a dig route.

As Rivera said, it will take some time before he truly reclaims his pre-injury form. But this was as good a start as anyone could have realistically hoped for.

2. Same old Luke:It didn't take long for All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly to make his presence felt. After playing it safe with his recovering shoulder during OTAs and minicamp, Kuechly returned to the middle of the defense and quickly batted down a pass before sniffing out runs in typical Luke fashion.

"A couple of guys said, 'How does he do it?' The first couple of plays, he's out there making plays," Rivera said. "That's just who he is. He competes, he studies, he prepares, and he gets out there and makes plays."

3. Two rookies starting at cornerback: Second-round pick James Bradberry and third-round pick Daryl Worley were the first cornerbacks up during team drills.

Bradberry missed an opportunity to intercept quarterback Cam Newton's pass for wide receiver Brenton Bersin when it caromed off his chest.

Worley was beaten by Benjamin on a couple occasions, but bounced back to make a couple plays of his own.

"The young corners competed their butts off," Rivera said. "I was real pleased about that."

4. Sanchez flashed:Fifth-round pick Zack Sanchez made the most of an opportunity when it came his way. Quarterback Derek Anderson was a little late on his throw across the field to wide receiver Stephen Hill, and Sanchez, who recorded 15 interceptions at Oklahoma, alertly jumped the pass to claim the only interception of the day.

"Zack made a big play, and we were just a step away from making some very good plays," Rivera said. "It was good to see the young guys out there competing. That's the only way they're going to get better."

5. Lotulelei limited: Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei missed team periods due to hamstring tightness. Rivera said Lotulelei felt discomfort after completing the conditioning test.

"We just thought it would be better if we kept him on the sideline for a day or two," Rivera said. "He passed the running test, but afterwards he tightened up, and we were concerned about that."

View photos from Carolina's first practice of training camp.

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