CHARLOTTE – As a college student, Shaq Thompson knows what it's like to stay up all night preparing for an exam.
Tuesday night/Wednesday morning, Thompson actually pulled an all-nighter after his last final exam. Thompson went from a classroom at the University of Washington to a film room inside Bank of America Stadium to begin studying for his next assignment – Panthers linebacker.
"It feels good just to get back with the team," said Thompson, Carolina's 2015 first-round draft choice who missed the team's first eight organized team activities while finishing the quarter at Washington. "I missed so many OTAs because of school, but now I'm done with school – just finished my last final – so it's time to get back out here and work and be a part of the team."
When Thompson says he just finished his last final exam, he means it. Thompson worked with his professors to move his exam schedule up one day and made it to practice Wednesday by taking a cross-country redeye flight.
Between the commitment Thompson showed in studying the Panthers' playbook while in school and the effort he made to return to Charlotte as quickly as possible, his coaches feel good about him successfully playing catch-up.
"Think about it: He just got off a plane on a redeye flight, came straight to the facility, went into meetings and then was on the field. He hasn't really slept," linebackers coach Al Holcomb said. "He certainly seems mentally tough and should be able to pick things up.
"I'm very excited. I was anxious to get him in here after such a long spring. Now it's just about building up – developing a library of information for him and continuing to build up his reps and get him back in football shape. I thought he did a pretty good job from what I could tell on the field in terms of his recognition and understanding of the defense."
Thompson showed no ill effects from a hamstring injury suffered the last time he was on the practice field, one that limited him during Carolina's rookie minicamp a month ago.
"I just hit the training room every day to get better and get my hamstring stronger. The process went great," Thompson said. "I'm glad I had the time to recover and come back healthy. It feels great. I was able to be out here playing fast."
Thompson also was up to speed because of the time he spent in his playbook while at school. Locally, he bounced thoughts off of Brandon Huppert, a Washington assistant coach and former player. Remotely, he stayed in contact with Holcomb, linebacker Luke Kuechly and cornerback Bene Benwikere.
Wednesday, Thompson took the field with Kuechly and Co. for the first time.
"It was crazy. This is the dream, getting here and working with Luke, Thomas Davis, A.J. (Klein) and all these guys," Thompson said. "They're a great inspiration and a big help. They're like big brothers, wanting me to get where they're at so we get better in the end.
"I'm just ready to be with the team. It's a great team and a great organization. I get to work with great guys and get to compete each and every day and get better. This team has such a good vibe – just positive energy and a lot of love. I'm just ready to get to work."
PANTHERS SIGN SIMONSON: Carolina signed free agent tight end Scott Simonson less than a week after he was waived by the Oakland Raiders and waived undrafted rookie punter Matt Wile.
Simonson played in the final four games last season as a rookie for the Raiders after spending the first 12 games on their practice squad. The 6-5, 250-pounder went undrafted out of Assumption College, where he totaled 104 receptions for 1,537 yards and 15 touchdowns in four seasons.
Wile had been signed as an undrafted rookie free agent from Michigan on May 8.