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Carolina Panthers

Panthers OTA Observations: Day 1

View photos from the first week of Carolina's organized team activities.

CHARLOTTE - Tuesday morning, for the first time in about four-and-a-half months, the Panthers' offensive and defensive units got the opportunity to line up against each other. On the first snap of organized team activities, quarterback Derek Anderson targeted wide receiver Devin Funchess, but cornerback James Bradberry was up to the task.

With that, the Panthers were off and running.

"It's nice to have all these guys here," head coach Ron Rivera said.

The first of 10 voluntary OTAs featured 87 of Carolina's 90 players. Rookie first-round pick Christian McCaffrey isn't allowed to participate because his school is still in session, and second-round pick Curtis Samuel was away attending to a family matter. Offensive tackle Michael Oher also wasn't in attendance.

  • The three Panthers coming off offseason surgeries were notably active.
    Quarterback Cam Newton can't yet throw the football following shoulder surgery, but he worked on footwork with the other quarterbacks throughout the nearly two-hour session, ran some on the side and was very vocal during team drills.

Defensive end Charles Johnson, coming off back surgery, and wide receiver Damiere Byrd (knee) took part in the majority of the OTA, an encouraging sign to be sure.

  • Funchess got Bradberry back with a nice grab against him later in the first team period, and then the most notable performer of the day began to make his mark. Safety Dean Marlowe picked off a Joe Webb pass that bounded off tight end Eric Wallace, and Marlowe later had a nice pass breakup against tight end Ed Dickson. Marlowe also was in position if live contact were allowed to quickly and forcibly bring down wide receiver Russell Shepard – arguably the best offensive performer of the day – on a short reception.
    "I just stayed true to my rules, locked in and just kept doing what I did," said Marlowe, who is in prime position to compete for playing time after going on injured reserve with a hamstring injury after Week 2 last season. "This is the first time I've put on a helmet since September. I'm so happy to be out here healthy and performing on the field."
  • Prior to the first team drills of 2017, the Panthers collectively displayed a sunny deposition even facing enveloping cloud cover and a near-promise of rain. The precipitation, however, held off until players began jogging back into Bank of America Stadium at the conclusion of the session.

Warm-ups featured the Kalil brothers – center Ryan and new left tackle Matt – stretching beside each other while having plenty to say. Nearby, defensive end Julius Peppers' chiseled look spoke for itself, sporting N.C. State red cleats and looking nothing like what a 15-year NFL veteran is supposed to look like. He remains a rare physical specimen.

Once in position drills, Matt Kalil got a warm welcome from offensive line coach Ray Brown on his first shot at the sled.

"That's nice pad level, 75," Brown said. "Way to join the program."

  • During pitch-and-catch drills, the Panthers were precise across the board on shorter routes but looked a little rusty as the routes lengthened. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula encouraged the group to push the pace. Veteran Brenton Bersin appeared to do everything right, and Webb continued to live out the "more you can do" mantra, running the final receiving route to complete the process of the players changing sides for the next round of tosses.
  • It was an interesting debut for rookie cornerback Corn Elder, the Panthers' fifth-round draft choice. Shepard and Kelvin Benjamin both made nice catches technically at Elder's expense, but the rookie was right there and couldn't have done much more from a coverage standpoint. Benjamin also made another catch where, with the help of an accurate throw, the defense pretty much was powerless.
  • The Panthers are scheduled to return to the practice field each of the next two days and will then hold seven more OTAs before wrapping up the offseason workout program with a three-day mandatory minicamp in mid-June.

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