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Observations: Final minicamp practice

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When the Panthers huddled up one last time Thursday to officially bring the offseason workout program to a close, head coach Ron Rivera told his players to prepare when next they get together at training camp.

"Do things the right way," Rivera said. "Be smart, take care of yourselves and make sure you're ready to go."

Soon after taking the short walk back to Bank of America Stadium, some players began to trickle toward the parking lot. Rivera's docket for the day still included some film study.

"We'll watch practice for the last time today and get to see how those last few team periods looked," Rivera said. "We'll see where some of the young guys developed and grew and see what happened as far as retention in terms of who's learning and who's not.

"We'll also see what is going on with the first group, see how they handled some of the adjustments made by these coordinators. The thing we have to remember is we have three new coordinators."

When Rivera cues up the tape, he's a few things he'll see along with a few things he might have overheard during the final practice of mandatory minicamp.

--On the second play of the first team period, Cam Newton zipped a pass between two defenders into the back of the end zone that rookie tight end Ian Thomas hauled in for a 7-yard touchdown. Thomas was busy to be sure Thursday because Chris Manhertz was nowhere to be found a day after suffering a foot injury and then Jason Vander Laan sat out the second half of practice after getting his knee wrapped. Vander Laan made a good first impression throughout OTAs and got plenty of chances late with Evan Baylis (ankle) out for a while and Greg Olsen taking it easy Thursday. Fullback Alex Armah took some tight end snaps after Vander Laan departed.

--Defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. was carted off after he and guard Norman Price accidentally tangled. Safety Mike Adams was again excused from practice, and defensive tackle Drew Iddings (back) remained out. Olsen and linebacker Thomas Davis were among a group of vets who yielded their reps to younger players.

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--Still, practice wouldn't have been complete without a Davis-Newton exchange. Right after Thomas' early touchdown, offensive tackle Matt Kalil ended up knocking Newton over. After a seemingly stunned silence broke, Newton didn't remain silent, actually hanging out along the defensive sideline for quite a while. He unsurprisingly gravitated to Davis, who welcomed Newton as only he can.

"He's not used to standing on the winners' side of the field," Davis said to Kyleigh, a suited-up Make-A-Wish kid.

--Early in practice, during individual drills, defensive coordinator Eric Washington lauded cornerback Lorenzo Doss for doing exactly what Washington has been preaching throughout offseason workouts.

"Pick machine. Lorenzo Doss. Takeaway machine. Can't stop him."

Doss was relatively quiet Thursday, but safety Damian Parms took up the mantle by picking off Newton and also bursting into the backfield to thwart a handoff to Christian McCaffrey. But the takeaway of the day went to rookie linebacker Andre Smith, who picked Garrett Gilbert after safety Dezmen Southward leapt to deflect the pass and Smith seized it off-balance from the turf.

--The catch of the day went to wide receiver Rasheed Bailey, assuming he did get both feet down as appeared he did on a Taylor Heinicke pass to the back of the end zone. Veteran Torrey Smith made a nice touchdown grab in the front of the end zone later from Newton that prompted Bailey to exclaim, "I see you, O.G.!"

--Wide receiver Curtis Samuel wrapped up a camp in which he pushed it on his surgically repaired ankle and then backed off with a strong finish. He flashed his quickness of a strike from Gilbert along the sideline, then he sped into open space deep downfield (though Gilbert overshot him).

--The musical chairs approach at left guard continued throughout minicamp and probably will for at least the first week of training camp, though Rivera said that Amini Silatolu would likely get the first look when camp commences.

"I anticipate him being at the top of the list to get that opportunity, yes. But we have a few guys who all performed well during OTAs and minicamp," Rivera said. "All of those guys will get a real serious look at it, and I'm excited to see who is going to step up."

Rivera said Silatolu, Taylor Moton, Jeremiah Sirles, Tyler Larsen and Greg Van Roten are all candidates.

--The final offseason practice was a precursor to Spartanburg, a sunny, steamy morning. Guard Trai Turner got a cool-off during stretching, however, when defensive tackle Kawann Short dumping a bottle of water over his head as a bizarre birthday gift for the now-25-year-old.

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