Play of the day
A wide receiver known for his ability in the return game took a step forward in his effort to return to football by any means necessary. Speedster Kaelin Clay went deep down the middle but encountered competent coverage from safety Mike Adams. Undaunted, Clay went up and brought in Derek Anderson's pass over Adams. Then came the ultimate stamp of approval – a Cam Newton-led celebration.
This was one of those days when no one player stood out above the pack on either side of the ball, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Jeff Richards made nice plays for a banged-up cornerback group (see below) in both pass coverage and as a blitzer, and wide receiver Damiere Byrd hauled in a deep ball in stride from Newton and looked dangerous on a reverse. There was, in addition, even more of a dark horse for the honor...
(As I was writing this my computer was hijacked by Ryan Kalil. The following was written by him.)
*Lastly, Ryan Kalil who was limited, did an outstanding job cheering on his teammates. The energy he brought not only elevated the practice tempo, but his memorable one-liners were inspirational. Most memorable comment: "Hey! Hey Cam! Do a good job this next play! I'll be over here with water when you get done. Hey Cam! Also, your hats are really dumb… but that's for another time. Go ahead and run this play and we can talk about that later."
- Kalil was being modest calling himself limited. He wasn't in on all the first-team snaps but did line up at center for some of them, the first time he's done so since a shoulder injury sidelined him for the final month of the 2016 season. Tyler Larsen, who impressed down the stretch last season in five starts in place of Kalil and Gino Gradkowski (knee), continues to get a lot of work.
"We have confidence in him," head coach Ron Rivera said. "It's all a part of it. We're working the whole group in, and remember Gino is coming off knee surgery as well with Ryan coming off the shoulder. Tyler is going to get a lot of more reps right now, and as both those guys get stronger and healthier, we'll increase their workload as well."
- The Panthers also are bringing defensive tackle Star Lotulelei along slowly following offseason shoulder surgery, a situation that allows second-year tackle Vernon Butler to score more reps that are invaluable for his development.
"Vernon has done a real nice job, and part of it is that we'll bring Star along slowly as well," Rivera said. "Star will take the reps we want him to. We'll work him in gradually, but in the meantime it's been really good for Vern to get reps with the ones and the twos."
- Rookie cornerback Corn Elder wasn't on the practice field Thursday because of an undisclosed injury, and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was in uniform but didn't practice for the second consecutive day because of a hamstring injury. Defensive tackle Toby Johnson (leg) didn't practice after going down in the first practice of training camp Wednesday. Rookie defensive end Daeshon Hall left early with cramps, but wide receiver Devin Funchess fully participated and was active one day after cramps hit him hard.
Additional practice notes
- While Clay's catch came early, Newton and tight end Greg Olsen capped the practice with a doozy of a touchdown. Given lots of time to throw, Newton spotted Olsen breaking free deep down the left sideline. Cornerback Daryl Worley was a tick away from coming over and knocking the ball away, but when he couldn't, Newton got to savor it with a tongue-wagging celebration while prancing past the defensive sideline.
- On the first 11-on-11 snap of practice, Newton and Olsen were nearly victimized by linebacker Shaq Thompson on a beautiful break-up over the middle that nearly turned an amazing interception.
- Linebacker Thomas Davis introduced himself to rookie running back Christian McCaffrey with a really nice play on a Newton pass over the middle. Davis was sporting Nike's version of Newton's signature Under Amour headband, and the friendly combatants wore their heart on their sleeves as always. Late in practice, Newton flexed in Davis' direction when he connected with Funchess on a nice slant.
View photos from Carolina's second practice at training camp.