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Rivera pleased with padded practice premiere

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Head coach Ron Rivera set the tone for the Panthers' first padded practice since Super Bowl week by gathering the team in a ring for a variation of the "Oklahoma" drill, where offensive and defensive linemen get physical one-on-one while their teammates cheer them on.

On the whole, the Panthers maintained that intensity throughout the session.

"I liked the energy for the most part. I thought the guys did some good things," Rivera said. "We always talk about guys being consistent, and we could have been a little bit better, but there were some really good things, good individual efforts out there."

Rivera did call his team to action one time early in the first team period, admonishing the defense for being slow to line up, but no other prompting was required on this day.

"That's not acceptable, so I let them know it," Rivera said. "It wasn't good enough. We weren't ready to play football."

A handful of players didn't get the chance to suit up Saturday but should be back Sunday when the Panthers return to the practice field at 9:25 a.m. Running back Jonathan Stewart was given a "vet day" off (Rivera said some others would get one Sunday), and wide receiver Stephen Hill was held out both as a precaution but also as part of the plan coming off a catastrophic knee injury suffered in training camp last year.

"He apparently landed on his knee (Friday), and they just wanted to be careful with it today, and they wanted to give him a day off today anyway," Rivera said. "He should be fine, should be back tomorrow."

It's not as clear if fullback Devon Johnson will return. Johnson missed practice Friday with an illness, and Rivera said the undrafted rookie's back is now acting up and causing some concern.

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