CHARLOTTE – Fan Fest kicked off training camp for the Panthers on Friday night at Bank of America Stadium, and for quarterback Cam Newton, it marked his return to the practice field as a full participant after offseason ankle surgery.
"It was extremely fun to come out here for my first practice," Newton said. "I can't stress enough that I'm not 100 percent yet. I'm treating it day in and day out.
"But the truth of the matter is I'm happy to be out here."
That was evident in between drills, as Newton engaged the crowd to orchestrate all forms of the wave – reverse, slow-motion, high-speed – before taking a bow.
As for his play, there was some expected rust – a fumbled handoff to running back DeAngelo Williams and timing issues on a few throws. But Newton settled in during team drills as practice continued.
"He's working himself back in, and this was the first time he really had a chance to work those techniques," head coach Ron Rivera said. "He made some nice throws.
"A big part of right now is developing the footwork, and a big part of that is getting the flexibility back (in his ankle). We have to be smart with it, and I think he'll work back into shape pretty soon. This is all part of his rehab."
Seeing his franchise quarterback back full-go was a welcome sight for Rivera, as was the performance of the wide receivers Friday.
"I liked what I saw from that bunch," Rivera said.
When asked for the standout from practice, Rivera chose wide receiver Brenton Bersin, who recorded the top play of the day.
Quarterback Derek Anderson lofted a pass deep down the sideline, and Bersin leaped over cornerback Carrington Byndom to high-point the ball for the touchdown reception.
"It was just a straight go-route, and at first I didn't think he threw it. At the last second I was like, 'Oh, crap,'" Bersin said. "It was a great throw, and luckily the defensive back didn't really see it. I was able to make a play.
"It's great to just get out here and start practicing again. It's fun being in front of all these fans."
Now the Panthers will head south to resume training camp at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., with the Back to Football party taking place at 4 p.m. and practice at 6:30.
Cornerback Josh Thomas did not practice as he was placed on the non-football injury list.
"He's got a tight back," Rivera said. "We'll see how he is tomorrow. He might not practice. Hopefully, he'll be in pads on Sunday."
Cornerback Josh Norman was held out toward the end of the session with a tight hamstring.
Prior to practice, the team waived defensive tackle Shaq Rowell.