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Sam Darnold owns his mistakes, and sometimes those of others

Sam Darnold

SPARTANBURG — There are things that are Sam Darnold's fault, and he acknowledges those.

But not all the things Sam Darnold's getting blamed for are actually Sam Darnold's fault, which is why the Panthers are reasonably encouraged by their quarterback's first week of training camp.

They anticipated some growing pains when they traded for the former Jets first-rounder this offseason, but they also saw some untapped potential. There have been signs of both so far.

"Yeah, it's coming along," Darnold said Tuesday when asked to assess his progress. "Just learning every day. That's the main thing, just coming out here and competing, and learning from mistakes and taking what I do well and just remembering that, and just continuing to compete. I think that's the biggest thing, compete, learn from the film room, and take the coaching."

Darnold says a version of that nearly every time he talks, so it's not necessarily a surprise. But the events of the last two days underscore that he's taking that boilerplate to heart.

He threw a pair of interceptions in practice Monday, but after watching the tape, head coach Matt Rhule said one of them belonged to someone else, with a bad route making Darnold look worse than he should have.

"One of them, he was throwing to the right spot, and the wrong guy was in the way," head coach Matt Rhule said. "I thought he was the least of the issues yesterday. I thought he was pretty good yesterday when you watched the tape."

Sam Darnold

Still, picks get noticed, and quarterbacks will always get the bulk of the blame. Darnold's making sure to volunteer for his share.

"Out here in practice, you are going to make mistakes; that's part of it," Darnold said. "There's no excuses to be made for it, obviously. When you mess up, you say, 'Hey, my bad,' and you learn from it and grow, and that's what I'm doing."

He did it again Tuesday morning. There was a false start on the offensive line, and Darnold jumped on the grenade, said it was a cadence issue on his part, and took the penalty lap around the practice field.

"I don't know if that was him or the guard," Rhule said. "But there was a cadence issue, and he said, 'That's me.'"

That kind of accountability gets noticed by teammates, and the players around Darnold on the field like the way he goes about his business. He's generally one of the first players on the field, showing up and punching the clock early, and impressing his new teammates with his easy yet confident manner.

"He controls the huddle, which is a great thing you want to see in a quarterback," veteran tackle Cameron Erving said. "He has really good pocket presence. He knows when to get out and turn it into a scramble drill. He's learning every day as well; this is a new system for him. I'm excited; I have nothing but optimism when I look at Sam as a quarterback."

Darnold himself is quick to acknowledge the stuff he has to work on. And as camp goes by, they keep making the job harder, with the defense beginning to add blitzes to the team drills, giving him more stuff to process. Sometimes, he gets it out quickly, and Rhule said recently that the quarterbacks here are "blessed" to be able to dump it down to Christian McCaffrey when things get rushed. And sometimes, you see Darnold take advantage of that, but also airing one out downfield for DJ Moore and Robby Anderson.

"I think Sam's doing really well," Rhule said. "He's evolving, he's growing, and getting good reps, and a lot of different looks, and for the most part protecting the football.

"We've had some turnovers in training camp, but if we had no turnovers I'd be upset about the defense. I think he's doing a nice job so far."

View photos from Tuesday's training camp practice at Wofford.

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