Five Practice Observations: Fan Fest

1. Practice at its most physical: Fans may have grown accustomed to an aerial show at Fan Fest, but this time they got more of the ground-and-pound style that defines this team.

"It was good to get that tempo up, get the pads cracking a little bit," linebacker A.J. Klein said. "Think about it, we've got less than a week now before we play in Baltimore (on Thursday in the preseason opener). We definitely have to start upping the tempo."

Friday marked the most physically intense Fan Fest practice of the Ron Rivera era and the most physical practice so far this preseason. The first-team defense came up with a pair of goal-line stands against the first-team offense, though the fact that quarterback Cam Newton wasn't an option in the running game (more on that later) made a difference. Running back Brandon Wegher scored three short-yardage touchdowns with the reserves, and the run game did exact some revenge when pinned against its own goal line, with Cameron Artis-Payne and Mike Tolbert breaking off lengthy gains.

"It's hard because you're looking for consistency, but when you see both sides making plays, there is some good in that," Rivera said. "That will be some good tape to watch."

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2. Physicality takes toll: A pair of defensive ends did suffer injuries during the intense action. Wes Horton sprained his wrist according to Rivera, and Larry Webster pulled his hamstring.

Defensive end Rakim Cox (back) missed his second straight practice – something Rivera thought he might be able to avoid – but wide receiver Philly Brown (ankle) returned to action after missing one practice.

3. Duke boys reunite on Friday night: The Panthers' pair of undrafted rookies from Duke made positive contributions in their quest to stick with the team – and they did so on back-to-back plays.

Linebacker Jeremy Cash stepped up to intercept a Derek Anderson toss over the middle, and on the next play, tight end Braxton Deaver hauled in a pass from Joe Webb. Cash and Deaver are both intriguing prospects but are at deep positions with rugged competition for the last spot or two.

4. Waters reigns in the rain: The Panthers uncorked about a dozen live punts Friday, or more specifically Swayze Waters did. With veteran Mike Scifres looking on, Waters got a chance to shine and did – at times. He boomed a 60-yarder on his first punt and had three more in the 50-yard range, but he also had a couple closer to 40 yards. Scifres is listed as the No. 1 punter on the first unofficial depth chart of the preseason, but perhaps it could just be a case of somebody having to be listed there. This race is far from over.

5. Cam saves best for last: With a run-heavy practice in which Newton was off limits to tacklers per usual, he got off to a quiet start. But Newton made plenty of noise late, in more ways than one.

His best pass of the night came toward the end when he dropped one perfectly into tight end Ed Dickson's outstretched arms, much to the frustration of nearby defender Luke Kuechly. Newton later added his first run of camp, scrambling up the middle on a third-down play in the final team period (not getting tackled, of course). And in between those highlights, Newton thrilled the crowd by posing as their orchestra leader, setting the pace for several speeds of the wave.

"The one that really did get me was the slow-motion wave," Rivera said.

View photos from practice at Bank of America Stadium.

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