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Carolina Panthers

Notebook: Next step for McCaffrey, cautious with Samuel


CHARLOTTE – Head coach Ron Rivera completed his latest rookie minicamp with the Panthers, and he felt this was one of the better groups of players assembled for the two days of practices.

"There were very limited mistakes out there, which is good to see," Rivera said after Saturday's practice. "We felt good about all the young men."

The Panthers entered the weekend with 35 invited tryouts vying for three available roster spots. Hours after the final practice, the team signed linebackers Kyle Kragen and Alex Bazzie and defensive tackle Gabriel Mass.

PLAN FOR MCCAFFREY:First-rounder Christian McCaffrey won't be able to attend the first couple weeks of OTAs due to Stanford's quarter system. But the Panthers have a plan to keep him involved and engaged.

"We're going to take advantage of the ability to Skype a player, or whatever you do with those iPad things. It'll be good," Rivera said. "We'll be able to communicate that way. He'll get the tape and the installations. He got a really good base as to what we're doing. As we send him that stuff over the internet it will be great.

"Hopefully nobody will hack it," Rivera joked.

CAUTIOUS WITH SAMUEL: Second-round wide receiver Curtis Samuel and tryout wide receiver Marvin Bracy were very limited participants Saturday. Rivera said they were being cautious after both players reported some lower back tightness.

"We didn't want anyone to pop a hamstring or anything like that," Rivera said. "For the most part, their workouts were all about getting ready for the combine and then pro days, and they forget about the football aspect of it. Now all of a sudden they have to start shifting gears and getting ready for football. Yesterday was a very strenuous day. We put them through a lot."

VETERANS LEAD THE WAY: Rivera was pleased with what he saw from the minicamp participants who had prior experience with the team or who were signed earlier this offseason.

"Jalen Simmons did a real nice job at running back for us," Rivera said. "He was one of the guys that added a little bit of energy. (Cornerback) Jeff Richards is a guy we brought in as a future (signing) and he's been around working. Eric Wallace at tight end did a nice job for us. Brian Blechen at safety.

"It's good to have those types of guys out there because they know what you want and they can get the other guys to understand that."

Safety Travell Dixon, who was promoted to the active roster after spending the first 16 weeks of the 2016 season on the practice squad, was among those showing the new guys the ropes.

"We try to give them an understanding of what it takes to be a Panther," Dixon said. "Just being vocal and leading these young guys."

BENJAMIN GRINDING: Rivera believes wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin is putting in the necessary work to take the field for OTAs in good shape.

After working out four days a week (the maximum allowed), Benjamin has used other days in the week as an opportunity to condition his body in the training room.

"He's come in and gotten extra treatment," Rivera said. "He's worked very hard when he's been around and he's done a great job. He gets in the whirlpool and the steam room and stuff like that. He's been great. He knows it, and he's been what you would hope he would be."

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