SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Kalon Barnes knows he can use all the practice repetitions he can get in training camp.
The Panthers' rookie cornerback is getting his reps in at Wofford, and that number has been climbing amid several injuries at his position.
Jaycee Horn, the Panthers' first-round selection in the 2021 draft, has been limited due to soreness in his left foot. Keith Taylor Jr. has been out with a hamstring for about a week of camp, and CJ Henderson missed a day of practice with a rolled ankle, among some other absences. That's not ideal, but Barnes is making the best of it.
"It's an advantage for me, just getting more reps," Barnes said. "(I'm) letting the game come to me. . . . When I am out, I'm trying to get the mental reps, so I think it's all falling in place."
Those extra reps are playing a role in helping Barnes, the Panthers' seventh-round selection in this year's draft, acclimate to professional football.
With more reps comes more opportunities to get feedback from film study, and Barnes said veteran cornerback Donte Jackson is always one of the first to throw a few pointers his way.
Barnes said that some of Jackson's best advice has been to focus on the big picture. That veteran guidance, coupled with the extra opportunities on the field, has helped Barnes start to feel more comfortable in Carolina's defense.
"I'm starting to see things from a different standpoint," Barnes said. "It's really just expanded my vision on everything."
Barnes was selected with the 242nd overall pick in this year's NFL draft out of Baylor, and he brings a unique level of speed to the Panthers' secondary. He ran a 4.23-second 40-yard dash at the 2022 combine, the fastest from a defender since 2003.
While there's obviously value in Barnes' ability to dash, Rhule said the extra reps are good for him while he learns more about the mechanics of playing cornerback in the NFL.
"There's a lot more to this game than just being fast," Rhule said. "He has a lot to learn, so those reps are really, really valuable for him."
Barnes said his teammates are fully aware of his full-speed potential and "hold him accountable" on the field.
"I ran 4.2 at the combine, so they want to see 4.2 on the field," Barnes said. "Even if I'm tired, I just try to give as much as I can. You get tired, but you can still be fast. They just want me to play fast."
As a rookie in training camp, Barnes said he's soaking in all of the advice he's getting from veterans, and he's remained focused on improvement.
"D-Jack, Jaycee, all the vets in the room, I just try to pick their brains," Barnes said. "(If) they see me do anything during the play while we're watching film, I want them to correct me."
And though he's now in the pros, Barnes has taken his focus to a message he used to hear from Rhule back in college.
"I just want to keep learning every day," Barnes said. "Coach Rhule used to always tell us, back at Baylor, (we're) just trying to get 1 percent better. That's the whole goal. He wants to get 1 percent better every day."
View photos from Monday's practice as the Panthers returned to practice after a day off on Sunday.