CHARLOTTE — Jeremy Chinn was so excited to be back on the practice field Tuesday that his vocabulary began to fail him.
The Panthers safety was designated to return from injured reserve, opening his 21-day window to practice. It's his first on-field activity in uniform since he left early in Week 4 with a hamstring injury, so playing Thursday night against the Falcons still feels extremely unlikely.
That didn't diminish the smile on his face, knowing he was one step closer to a return.
"It felt great," Chinn said with a grin Tuesday. "It felt great. That's the only word I've really got to describe it."
Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks acknowledged that Wilks "moved around well" but also noted the short week ahead of them while saying it was unlikely that Chinn would be activated for this game.
"I doubt very likely that I would put him in that situation to play this week," Wilks said. "With a day of walk-through, he hasn't practiced or played in six weeks; that's really asinine."
Chinn understands that position and that coming back next week against Baltimore remains the more likely outcome. But he acknowledged it was tough to pace himself after a long layoff, the longest of his career. He missed one game in each of his first two seasons.
"Yeah, that's what it's looking like right now," Chinn said. "I'm going to continue to do everything like I was playing on Thursday; that's how I've always approached it. Just continue to get more and more ready when the time comes.
"Just not being on the field, being on the sidelines, that's the toughest thing. Just knowing I could make an impact on games and not being able to do it. That's the toughest thing. I know my teammates want me out there, obviously, so watching them and feeling like you can't do much from the sideline is tough."
— After making a couple of changes on the coaching staff this week, Wilks said he was spending a little more time with the defense (after taking over as interim coach in Week 6, he spent most of the practice time on the other side of the ball). But with cornerbacks coach Evan Cooper gone, Wilks (a former secondary coach himself) said he's tried to be around his old group more often this week. Defensive assistant Bobby Maffei is taking on a larger role, though he primarily works with the safeties.
"With a short week, I just want to make sure I have my eyes on that side of the ball, particularly with the changes we did make," he said. "Moving forward, we'll see exactly what we need to do as far as making sure everybody is responsible for that position. Most importantly, I want to make sure that secondary is detailed in the things we need to get done."
Wilks said that with Don Johnson and Terrance Knighton handling the line after Paul Pasqualoni was let go, he and interim defensive coordinator Al Holcomb are spreading the work out to make sure everything's getting done.
"Guys have done a great job of stepping up," Wilks said.
Asked about having power over the staff to make changes (and Wilks alluded to possibly bringing in some help later in the year after this game was behind them), Wilks said he didn't like that characterization.
"Don't like to use that word 'power,'" Wilks said. "As I told the coaches the other day, I try to empower the staff so they can go do their job and try to encourage those guys. But by the same token, when I say something, something said is something meant. So that accountability is there. And it needs to get done."
Check out the best photos from Tuesday's practice as the Panthers wore the new black helmets in anticipation of their debut on Thursday Night Football.