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Notebook: Getting healthier, as the preseason comes to a close

Marquis Haynes Sr.

CHARLOTTE – It's a good week for a lot of Panthers returning to practice from injuries.

As the regular season inches closer, and with the preseason finale against the Lions on deck for Friday at 8 p.m., many of Carolina's players who had fallen injured throughout camp are making their returns this week.

Tuesday brought back offensive lineman Cade Mays (neck, stinger), outside linebacker Jordan Thomas (thumb), and outside linebacker DJ Johnson (knee). Johnson was carted off the field during Monday's practice, but he turned out to be fine.

And for other players, such as running back Miles Sanders (groin), outside linebacker Marquis Haynes Sr. (back), quarterback Andy Dalton (back), kicker Eddy Piñeiro (groin), and wide receiver Derek Wright (knee), who all returned to practice Monday at some capacity, the signs have been mostly good.

Haynes missed most of training camp with an early back injury, though he remained along the sidelines taking mental reps as the Panthers converted his position group from defensive ends to outside linebackers in new coordinator Ejiro Evero's 3-4 base defense.

Haynes also had a strong offseason, so the injury came at an inopportune time.

"It's very frustrating, especially at a time like this," Haynes said Tuesday. "We've got brand new coaches and stuff, and you're trying to show everything you can do. Unlucky for me, like, I just get injured before we start really kicking things off.

"But on the good side, it's good to take mental reps and to learn from different people's playing styles within this defense. That's a lot of reps, taking in mentally and stuff. So that's pretty good for me."

Haynes said he felt "1,000 percent confident" he'd be ready to go for the regular season, which kicks off at Atlanta on Sept. 10.

But as for the last preseason game, he's trusting coaches with that plan.

"It's up to the coaches," Haynes said. "I'm just here to work my butt off, just do the best I can to show like I can learn this defense and stuff. … As it comes to Friday, I'll let the coaches decide that."

– It's not all perfect personnel-wise. Cornerback Donte Jackson (ankle) still isn't ready to practice, and Reich said he isn't probable to play against the Lions. 

Wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. (back) has no definite timetable for return either.

– Outside linebacker Amaré Barno, who has flashed at moments throughout both preseason games thus far, left Tuesday's practice on a cart after walking to the medical tent. The reasoning behind Barno's departure is unclear.

– With Jackson sidelined for the moment, Reich complimented the work backup cornerback CJ Henderson has done throughout camp.

Henderson did have a solid preseason, including multiple interceptions down at Wofford.

"He's been Mr. Consistency," Reich said. "He's been consistent, been good. (We're) really excited about what he's put on tape." 

– Wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. sustained a concussion in Monday's practice, Reich said, and his availability is also unknown.

Reich said it wasn't a "bad hit" that injured Shenault.

"It was just an incidental contact," Reich said. "He was blocking on a run play and just got hit the wrong way at the wrong time … It happens every now and then."

– Assistant general manager Dan Morgan spoke with reporters one week before the Panthers (and the rest of the NFL) must cut their rosters down to just 53 players.

Teams have to meet only one cutdown date this year, going from a 90-man limit to a 53-man limit by 4 p.m. next Tuesday. 

And with it all happening at once, Morgan said he and the scouts have a list of more than 1,200 players across the league who could potentially fit onto the Panthers' roster, should they be cut. 

"I actually like it a little better," Morgan said of the single-day cutdown. "I like it better just because you have them all at once; they're out there. And our reports are done, it gives us a little more time to evaluate them, and our scouts watch the tape and put the reports in. So either way, it'd be fine. But I like it this way. I think it'll be more efficient for us."

Morgan said their philosophy is to "upgrade everywhere" by seeking depth and creating competition with the players they bring in. 

And their work isn't done once they make their initial 53-man cut. Morgan and the scouting department have prepared to keep making moves. 

"Nothing's really going to catch us by surprise was the way we look at it," Morgan said. "We're excited about our roster. … And we feel like we can really add some players and make this roster better, make it more competitive. We like our team now, but we're always trying to get better. We're always trying to upgrade. And we're going to do that by any means."

– Sanders, a former Philadelphia Eagle, knows a thing or two about what it's like to work alongside former Alabama football players.

He's been a teammate to Jalen Hurts, DeVonta Smith, and now Bryce Young. And in his press conference Tuesday, Sanders heaped praise toward Alabama head coach Nick Saban and his Crimson Tide program.

"Bryce is real sharp, and that's kind of what I learned from Jalen, too," Sanders said. "Like I said before, Nick Saban is doing a great job at Alabama. Those guys are just sharp – not even just the quarterbacks, you know, DeVonta Smith, I played with him. (Those) guys are just sharp and all about their work."

– Tuesday was another exceptionally hot day at practice, and multiple players had to be treated for heat-related symptoms throughout the afternoon. Temperatures in Charlotte reached the mid-90s, and the humidity remained high. The tent between practice fields with cooling fans was a popular gathering spot between periods.

View photos of the Panthers practicing on Monday before their preseason finale against the Lions.

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