Four takeaways from Sunday's practice

DIFFICULT DECISIONS: The total number of players participating in Sunday's return to the practice field was down as the Panthers began the painful process of trimming the roster in anticipation of the regular season.

Eight players learned that their dream of making the 53-man roster won't become a reality – not now, at least.

"It's a tough day," head coach Ron Rivera said. "All of those guys did some nice things for us and gave us their best, and we appreciate it.

"And you just never know – some of those guys may get another opportunity."

Sunday's roster moves brought the roster down to 82 players. It must be reduced to 75 by Tuesday.

"There are some things we've still got to look at," Rivera said. "We have not made complete decisions yet with all the moves we have to make."

INJURY UPDATE: The number of players practicing was reduced even more by injuries sustained in Friday's preseason game, but wide receiver Devin Funchess (hamstring) and defensive end Charles Johnson (calf) did practice. Rivera had said after the Patriots game that both were "very close" to being able to play.

Cornerbacks Charles Tillman (concussion) and Melvin White (hamstring), wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery (groin), center Brian Folkerts (ankle) and linebacker Jason Trusnik (calf) didn't practice after suffering injuries against the Patriots. Rivera told the media after the game that Tillman had the wind knocked out of him but explained Sunday that it was a misunderstanding based on what Tillman had told him on the sideline.

Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (foot), center Ryan Kalil (knee), safety Colin Jones (groin), tight end Richie Brockel (shoulder) and offensive tackle Davonte Wallace (concussion) remain out of practice. Defensive end Arthur Miley missed practice to rest a sore knee, but cornerback Lou Young (hamstring) returned.

Rivera explained that linebacker Luke Kuechly came out of the Patriots game briefly because of a deep scratch sustained by contact with a cleat.

View practice photos from the fourth week of the preseason.

WR COMPETITION CONTINUES: Rookie wide receivers Paul Browning and Avius Capers were among the players waived Sunday, but the battle for spots on the 53-man roster – which must be set by Saturday – rages on.

"We haven't really picked a number yet – five, six or seven – but it is a good battle," Rivera said. "Some of the young guys have really stepped up."

The roster currently contains seven healthy receivers – Funchess, Corey Brown, Ted Ginn, Jr., Brenton Bersin, Jarrett Boykin, Mike Brown and Damiere Byrd. Cotchery should be back soon, and De'Andre Presley looked good running routes after practice and could be close to coming off the physically unable to perform list.

The healthy receivers got in some extra work with quarterback Cam Newton after practice, then Corey Brown stuck around for extended work with quarterback Derek Anderson. Brown, a potential starter even before Kelvin Benjamin was lost for the season, has struggled with drops the last two games but has the full backing of teammates and coaches.

RUNNING BACK REUNION: Jonathan Stewart knows he'll be seeing his good friend and former running mate DeAngelo Williams when the Panthers arrive in Pittsburgh for the fourth and final preseason game Thursday.

"It'll be different for sure," Stewart said.

Stewart isn't how much, if any of the Steelers defense he'll see after carrying the ball seven times for 12 yards against the New England Patriots.

But Carolina's No.1 running back feels prepared for the start of the regular season.

"It was good to take some pounding here and there – it's the nature of the game," Stewart said. "Got some reps with our ones against (the Patriots') ones for an extended period of time.

"We have some work to do, for sure. I'm pretty sure we'll be ready for Week 1."

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