CHARLOTTE – Tackle Andrew McDonald entered the offseason workout program hoping to make a mark along the offensive line.
McDonald will have to wait until training camp for his chance, but he's not complaining.
During a physical leading up to the start of organized team activities last month, doctors diagnosed McDonald with testicular cancer. It was found early, however, and McDonald was able to work out on the side soon after and should be back in action for training camp in late July.
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"I found out after a physical around the nineteenth of May. I had a little bump, and it turned out to be testicular cancer," McDonald said. "The next day I had surgery to get it removed, and it hadn't spread anymore. I'm feeling good. It's been four weeks now since the incision, and I've recovered well."
McDonald joined the Panthers' practice squad for the final 10 games of last season. Undrafted out of Indiana in 2012, McDonald spent his rookie season on the Miami Dolphins' practice squad.
The 6-6, 310-pounder did get a chance to shine as one of six veterans that qualified to participate in Panthers rookie minicamp days before his diagnosis. He'll get another shot in Spartanburg.
STAYING PUT: First-round draft pick Fozzy Whittaker has decided to stay in Charlotte after rookie workouts conclude next week instead of returning to his Florida home leading up to training camp.
The wide receiver won't be alone.
"The nice thing is that Cam (Newton) will be around. Cam will be here rehabbing, so those two guys will be able to work on developing a rapport," head coach Ron Rivera said. "The more you get to know your teammates, the more you learn to believe in and trust them. That's important."
Benjamin said the decision to stay in Charlotte for the better part of the next month was an easy one.
"I feel like I've got to grow up fast, so I'm going to sacrifice that break to stay and work," he said. "I want to contribute to the team this season. I'm a rookie, so I've got to catch up with the older guys."
STEPPING FORWARD: A similar level of commitment appears to be paying dividends for second-year tight end Brandon Williams.
"He's one of the guys that stayed here year-round on his own. He started his workouts early – in February – and he's been champing at the bit," Rivera said. "He wants to show what he's learned and to continue to learn and grow and keep making plays."
Rivera said that Williams, a physical specimen playing catch-up after spending two years out of football because of a back injury, has made significant progress since his rookie season. Williams, who played sparingly in nine games last season, is a part of what is expected to be an intense training camp battle behind starter Greg Olsen for the tight end roster spots.
"It's going to be a very tough position for us," Rivera said. "We've got six veteran guys that have all played in this league and have all done some things in this league to make their mark. It's going to be hard. We're going to have some tough decisions at that position. All those guys are very competitive."
SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT: The ability to contribute on special teams could play into the roster decision at tight end as well as other positions. The Panthers are trying to piece together plans at kick and punt return, a need that could help someone stick on the final roster.
"It's going to be a mix of guys until we have a clear-cut guy step up," Rivera said. "Nobody has the edge as far as punt return is concerned. Kickoff is a little bit different because of (wide receiver) Kealoha (Pilares) coming back healthy as well as (running back) Kenjon Barner – guys that have done it for us in the past.
"We feel good about that situation; the big situation of course will be punt return."
Wide receiver Tiquan Underwood has gotten some reps at both kickoff and punt return. Veteran cornerback Antoine Cason fielded some punts Wednesday, but Rivera said he'd more than likely be a safety-valve type of option.
"It's still early to say," Rivera said. "We're most certainly going to work on that and see if we can find the right guy."