OTA Notebook: Panthers' attendance still high

Shaq Thompson

CHARLOTTE — With many NFL teams, OTAs look a lot like rookie minicamps.

With the Panthers, it's been nearly all hands on deck for the first two weeks of the organized team activities, with the vast majority of the roster in person for the first two weeks of the voluntary work.

It is, of course, voluntary. But other than wide receiver Robbie Anderson, every other player on the roster has shown up at least part of the time. Some players have been in and out, missing for particular reasons, but the attendance has been solid and appreciated by a coaching staff that never got to work with guys in person last offseason.

That kind of attendance isn't common around the league. Many veterans, at the behest of the NFLPA, are staying away from team facilities this spring. For instance, the player count is in the 40s for the Buccaneers, not including quarterback Tom Brady. It's less of an issue there since they have practically the entire roster back from the Super Bowl championship team, and did get that extra month of practice called January. In other places, such as Seattle, the count is under 40.

Panthers wideout DJ Moore, who serves as an alternate team representative to the union, said there were "multiple discussions" about the topic among players, but the consensus was the benefits outweighed the risks, and "nobody was ever against it, not going in."

"Because we're one of the youngest teams in the league," Moore explained. "I was talking to some of the other leaders, the older players on the team, they were like since we're so young, we might as well go ahead and go in and get it down and get it done with the rest of the team; not be separated all through the country.

"We've got people that's out, but they're still in constant communication with us, so it's all good. We're just happy to be here."

That tone has been set by other veterans. Defensive end Brian Burns recalled early conversations with linebacker Shaq Thompson, who wanted as many of the new parts on defense available, so that they could build on last year's momentum.

"As a defense, I know Shaq came to me, and he was like 'We're all trying to get to OTAs and get to know each other and get through the teaching stage,'" Burns said. "I was all for it.

"I like being around the guys and being in the building, so it didn't bother me at all."

STAYING IN TOUCH

Speaking of Anderson, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said he had no reason to believe the receiver wouldn't be there for the mandatory minicamp later this month. Rhule also said he understood players had to make individual decisions, but was glad to see so many choose to show up.

Moore said he talks to Anderson every day, and he isn't worried about his fellow starter not being ready.

"I'm not concerned about it," Moore said. "We talk every day; I try to keep him in the loop. I know he's working hard, like everybody on the team knows he's working hard where he stays at, so whatever he's doing is whatever he's doing. He's getting better.

"We want him here; I would love him here, because that's my boy. But I know he's working hard, so I'm cool with it."

Terrace Marshall Jr.

WORKING HIS WAY BACK

Second-round pick Terrace Marshall Jr. is still working his way back from an offseason knee surgery, and they're handling him with extreme care. The wideout from LSU did some practicing during rookie minicamp, but his participation has been more limited lately.

Rhule said the goal was to make sure Marshall was "super-healthy," which goes beyond simply being cleared, in hopes of preventing aggravations of previous problems.

"We came in with a plan to get him ready for training camp," Rhule said. "He's doing a good job in the meetings, he's out here for walk-throughs and things like that, but we are, like with other guys, trying to get him as healthy as possible.

"He had a couple of injuries in college, and we want to make sure he's whole before the start of the season."

Marshall's still on the field during practice, and catching balls from the Jugs machine afterward, as they try to have him ready to contribute once the season starts.

OBSERVATIONS

— Rest easy, Panthers fans, your quarterback is now fully furnished.

Sam Darnold said this week that his furniture has made its way to his Charlotte apartment. As revealed in Panthers Confidential, presented by Coca-Cola, Darnold's early days in town were spent with his mattress on the floor, and he was missing half of his sectional couch.

He can now live like an adult, though the 23-year-old joked that he's used to living like a college student. . . .

— The Panthers released quarterback/tight end Tommy Stevens last week, but Rhule alluded to the possibility of some players being cut and brought back later.

In the short term, they needed to add a receiver (C.J. Saunders) since minor injuries have left them short at the position group in practice.

But they've already released and brought back defensive lineman Frank Herron once this offseason, as they try to evaluate as many players as possible heading into the season.

The Panthers have another week of OTAs next week, before wrapping up the spring workouts with the mandatory minicamp June 14-16.

View photos from Thursday's OTA practice at the Atrium Health practice fields.

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