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Notebook: Eddy Piñeiro's preparing to come back from camp injury

Eddy Piñeiro

CHARLOTTE – Eddy Piñeiro was all smiles after Wednesday's practice. He had a good reason to be in positive spirits.

The Panthers' starting kicker returned to practice this week after dealing with a minor groin strain during training camp. He has yet to kick in a preseason game, and whether or not he'll trot out for kickoffs, field goals, and extra points Friday night against the Lions is still up in the air, but he let it be known that he'd be ready to go if the coaches deemed it fit.

"I think it would be great," Piñeiro said. "I feel like I have some good game experience, but obviously, it's good to be out there and have some guys rush at you and try to block your kick, mentally get going. I would love it, but again, I'll leave it up to him (head coach Frank Reich). 

"Put me in, coach. I'm ready," he said with a laugh.

Piñeiro said he got up to 43 yards in his latest practice and that he feels "amazing" after taking it carefully the last few weeks. 

He said the groin injury on his kicking leg was never a muscle pull; it was more soreness that he wanted to manage, so the staff elected to allow it to heal. 

They brought in replacement kicker Matthew Wright toward the end of training camp, and he made his first two field goal attempts in last week's preseason game against the New York Giants.

"Preseason is a big deal for kickers," Piñeiro said. "I guess for every position (it is), but for kickers, you know, guys want to see guys make kicks. He's done a great job. He's always trying to learn. He's a great kid. And I think he's a great kicker. And I truly believe, and I hope that somebody grabs him, and he can be starting in this league. I think he's a starting kicker in the league." 

Reich remained adamant throughout Piñeiro's recovery that they're sticking with him, and Piñeiro said he expects to be ready for Week 1 at Atlanta on Sept. 10, even if he doesn't kick on Friday. 

"That's the game plan," Piñeiro said about the season opener. "Like I said, I leave it up to coach. I feel physically ready; mentally, I feel ready. You know, I'm going to leave it up to them and the trainers. They've got a good plan for me. So I just take it day by day with them."

– The Panthers sustained another injury to its receiving corps, as DJ Chark Jr. missed Wednesday's practice with a hamstring injury.

Reich declined to share further details about Chark's situation.

Laviska Shenault Jr. (concussion protocol), Terrace Marshall Jr. (back), and (Damiere Byrd IR–hamstring) are already nursing injuries from that group, leaving the door potentially open for depth players, such as Shi Smith, Derek Wright, and Javon Wims to get more work in their absence.

Starters Adam Thielen and Jonathan Mingo remain healthy heading into the final preseason game.

– Reich didn't express an overarching concern despite the injury situation across the group of receivers.

He shared that the concept of "healthy tension" and the next-man-up mentality keeps the staff from getting overwhelmed in the face of injuries. 

"I don't want to sound glib about anything, but I've just been involved in enough games that you have a ding here, a ding there," Reich said. "I don't overreact to something. First, I've got to find out what's the severity of it. Or, if a guy gets something, exactly where are we at on that? I just don't overreact to those things. It's a next-man-up mentality. 

"We've talked about this from the beginning. As a staff, we always talk about healthy tension; you'll probably hear me use that word a lot over the time that I'm here. On one hand, we care extremely deeply about every player and every injury. It hurts to see a guy get dinged or get injured, whatever the case, so you feel compassion. But yet it's next-man-up, and you've got to keep moving on. And everybody knows that, so that's what we do."

– New cornerback Troy Hill was present for his first practice in a Panthers' uniform Wednesday.

He won't play in the preseason finale, Reich said, but he expects Hill to be ready for Week 1.

– As for how the preseason has gone in general, Reich said he feels like the Panthers are where they want to be at this point in their preparation.

At the same time, he knew there would be "bumps" in the road with a new staff and plenty of new additions on the roster. But he likes how it has gone so far.

"I really think we're where we want to be," Reich said. "It's a long process. There's no shortcuts. There's going to be ups and downs. There's going to be injuries. It just happens because you've got to push. You've got to work hard. New staff, a lot of turnover in the roster, so there's going to be working through things, communication. Every step has been really good. There have been bumps and highs and lows, but we're on the right track."

– The Panthers will keep some continuity along the offensive front, starting rookie Chandler Zavala with the first-team offensive line at right guard for the second preseason game in a row.

Zavala continues to line up in place of Austin Corbett, who is progressing in his recovery from an ACL injury sustained in the final game of last season.

– Starting left guard Brady Christensen said he feels comfortable with various line combinations, discussing how offensive line coach James Campen has kept the rotations fresh throughout training camp – and why he saw it as a positive.

"The cool part about this training camp is we've had a couple combinations," Christensen said. "Coach Camp has done a great job at giving each one of us reps with different guys so we have that continuity across the board, even the second team with us. I think we're just going to continue to grow on that and continue to get reps with people. That's really what you have to do as an offensive lineman, and just go with it."

Scenes from the Panthers' practice on Wednesday before hosting the Detroit Lions this week.

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