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Rivera praises consistent practice

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – At times, head coach Ron Rivera has seen the defense dominate training camp practices and the offense take a back seat. At times, it's been the other way around.

Thursday, on the eve of the Panthers' return to Bank of America Stadium for their annual Fan Fest practice, Rivera saw both sides do their part.

"Today we were consistent across the board," Rivera said. "The thing that was really interesting was the amount of energy we had. A good part of it was because we had some good cloud cover that kept everybody cool, but I really liked the energy and liked the way we finished."

Rivera credited quarterback Cam Newton's ability to fan the flames of competition just the right amount and linebacker Thomas Davis' ability to lead the defense's response for shaping the tenor of practice.

"I do like the energy that Cam and TD bring. They do a little bit of yapping, but that's all part of the game," Rivera said. "It brings energy by bringing a little bit of challenge to the defensive guys, and they get it going with a little bit of back-and-forth.

"The big thing when you do that is that you've got to be able to handle it and maintain your focus. I have to make sure that's still going on."

Davis shared the practice field early with Shaq Thompson, the Panthers' first-round draft choice who sat out practice Wednesday to take care of his hamstring. Thompson was a partial participant Thursday.

"He was limited. We were just trying to be careful with him," Rivera said. "He did some things initially with the group and individual stuff, and then we pulled him aside and had him do a little extra work to get that hamstring ready to go."

Cornerback Charles Tillman, defensive tackle Colin Cole and offensive tackle Michael Oher had a veteran's day off. With Oher out and fellow tackle Nate Chandler getting a "precautionary" day, Amini Silatolu got extensive work at left tackle. A tackle in college who played guard exclusively his first two NFL seasons, Silatolu had been preparing to play tackle late last season when a knee injury set him back.

"He did some really good things, especially in the run game," Rivera said. "He looked strong and powerful at the point of attack, and I'm really pleased with that."

Silatolu lined up against second-year defensive end Kony Ealy at times. Competing for a starting job opposite Charles Johnson, Ealy is one player that Rivera said is still seeking the kind of consistency that the Panthers as a whole achieved Thursday.

"I've seen some good. I've seen some bad. The thing that has to happen is consistency," Rivera said. "He hasn't been consistent yet. When he gets consistent, then he'll know he's arrived."

Three NFL officials took part in the Panthers' last two practices and will conclude their stay by wielding their whistles at Fan Fest. Thursday afternoon, they reviewed rules changed and points of emphasis for the 2015 season.

The most notable change is the moving of the line of scrimmage for the extra points from the 2-yard line to the 15 and the opporturnity for defenses to score two points by returning blocked kicks or turnovers to the end zone. Other rules changes focus on player safety, including a rule allowing an independent observer to stop the game and remove a player requiring medical attention, in addition to the extension of rules governing defenseless receivers after a turnover, chop blocks and peel-back blocks. Points of emphasis include the administration of the tweaked definition of a catch as well as an effort to decrease fighting and dissuade players from forcibly pulling other players off of piles.

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