CHARLOTTE – After recording three catches on 11 targets for 38 yards and losing a costly fumble Sunday against the Bears, rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin was hard on himself.
"I have to work on my game, I feel like," said Benjamin, who earned NFC Offensive Rookie of the Month for September. "I have to get better. The biggest thing right now is moving on from this game and going to the next one."
Quarterback Cam Newton is doing everything he can to help Benjamin get better. The instantaneous friendship between the two has been well-documented, and it's times like this when Newton can relate to what Benjamin is experiencing as an instant-impact rookie.
"Anytime you come off what he came from – going undefeated and winning a national championship – everything comes easy," said Newton, who also enjoyed an undefeated, national championship season before turning pro. "In this league, you are always going to find faults in your game. You feel like you've reached the top or you've gotten to a point where you can become complacent, and this league will humble you."
Newton doesn't hesitate to share advice with Benjamin, and he doesn't hesitate to push him, either. The demands for success in the NFL require dedicated persistence and continued improvement.
"I just felt as if he's at that point where it's really becoming clear to him that each and every week (he has) to get better," Newton said. "The things that we feel like are our bread and butter, we have to keep mastering it no matter how many times we throw it. We still have to get better.
"For (Kelvin), he has to always motivate himself, and the great thing about him is he always does," Newton added. "He's self-motivated to be great."
INJURY UPDATES: Of the 10 players who appeared on the Panthers' injury report Wednesday, cornerback Bene Benwikere, who injured his ankle against the Bears and is currently wearing a cast, and running back DeAngelo Williams, who has been in a cast or boot since injuring his ankle in Week 4, can already be ruled out for Sunday's game against the Bengals.
Running back Jonathan Stewart (knee) and cornerback Josh Norman (concussion) will be closely monitored throughout the week, but at this point they are longshots to play.
Tight end Greg Olsen (ankle), linebacker Thomas Davis (elbow), left tackle Byron Bell (toe) and running back Darrin Reaves (hip) are expected to return to practice and play this week.
Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards and safety Roman Harper received veteran days off.
FALL BACK PLAN: With tight end/fullback Richie Brockel out for the remainder of the season with an ankle injury and Mike Tolbert on injured reserve/designated for return, the Panthers' lone experienced option at fullback is Chris Ogbonnaya, who says he's prepared to take on that responsibility.
"It's a part of my job," Ogbonnaya said of playing fullback. "If that's what I'm asked to do, I'll be open to doing it and I'll do it as well as I can.
"I have not (yet) been asked to do anything specifically, but if it were to come up, I'd be open to it."
AFC NORTH TROUBLES: Carolina's two losses came in decisive fashion against AFC North foes Pittsburgh and Baltimore.
But with a matchup against the Bengals looming, running back Fozzy Whittaker says the Panthers aren't reading too much into the opponent's divisional affiliation.
"I wouldn't say so," said Whittaker, who is set to return to action this week after not playing in the previous three games because of a thigh injury. "Sometimes, people just don't execute as well. Our games against Baltimore and Pittsburgh, we just didn't execute the way that we know how. Any team can get beat, and any team can beat anybody."