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Mandatory minicamp wraps with "positive energy"

Panthers practice

CHARLOTTE – Frank Reich can tell there has been good energy from Bank of America Stadium throughout his first offseason program here.

With those heightened vibes will come expectations. But the focus after the conclusion of mandatory minicamp Wednesday was all about how to continue their process into the true offseason before training camp in late July, as players and coaches will part ways for a few weeks before meeting up again in Spartanburg.

"I'm excited that there's a lot of positive energy," Reich said. "I feel it in the building. I feel it on the field with players. I feel it in the community with our fans, and I think our players feel that as well. Having been around this game for a while, I think you take the mode of 'we've got a lot,' we want to prove it every day. 

"Are we excited? Yes. Do we have high expectations? We sure do. But I've learned through the years, don't get too far out in front of those expectations. And secondly, really try to shift those expectations more – not so much results – shift those expectations to the process of how we're going to do it and who we're doing it with. So that'll be our focus."

Reich knows it'll be with the coaching staff he assembled for his first year at Carolina, and he said he had spent the last few weeks getting to know his new coordinators, Thomas Brown (offense) and Ejiro Evero (defense), as well as getting acclimated with special teams coordinator Chris Tabor, a holdover from the previous coaching regime. 

He said the coaches and players spent time learning expectations and schemes while laying the early foundation that'll carry over into their time at Wofford later this summer. 

He knows what he has in the staff. But when it comes to players, some pieces remain uncertain due to injuries. 

Reich said Wednesday he initially expected only guard Austin Corbett on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list for training camp as he continues to recover from his ACL tear sustained in the last season finale, though he'll meet with trainers Thursday to get a better call on other players – like veteran cornerback Donte Jackson.

Jackson missed the last seven games of the year due to a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 10 against Atlanta. Meeting with reporters, he said he'd reach eight months post-injury next week and is feeling great, but he didn't know on Wednesday whether he'd be available for training camp. 

"It's still to be determined, but I feel great," Jackson said. "It's all about what the training room says. I mean, I've been going with a plan, trusting them to help me throughout this, and they've been great."

Jackson's teammate and fellow corner Jaycee Horn is also expected to return for training camp after sustaining an ankle injury this spring. He missed the end of OTAs and all work during mandatory minicamp while in recovery.

"That guy's a hard worker," Jackson said of Horn. "So when it happens like that, you just take it and know he's going to get back right, and he'll be back with us for camp." 

He shared Reich's evaluation of the buzz around the locker room, calling back to the eagerness he has witnessed around the new coaching staff and how much the team has already bonded through the early point of the year.

"Guys just actually want to be around each other," Jackson said. "It's hard, when you've got a team full of guys during OTAs, to get everybody to just want to be around each other because the schedule is shorter, guys are doing stuff outside of the building. But this team this year has been different.

"Guys are just wanting to come in, even on like off days, even days when we get out early. Guys are staying after, just building and sitting in the locker room talking. Just kind of building the stuff that's going to be important come November and December, you know that you get all that right now." 

There's no reason to jump ahead, but Reich said he liked where the Panthers stood at the end of his offseason program. With plenty of work left for Spartanburg and beyond, he has gotten where he wanted to be with installations and player evaluation. 

Now there's more to do on the horizon – even during the interim before training camp. 

"It's a break, but it's not really a break, right?" Reich said. "You've got to keep working hard to get in shape. It's a break mentally from the game, as far as studying, but physically keep getting better. And we'll be ready to go with training camp."

Check out photos from Panthers practice during mandatory minicamp.

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