SPARTANBURG, S.C. – As much as any position group, defensive linemen face quite the battle when it comes to beating the heat at training camp.
But with the aggressive approach of defensive line coach Brian Baker and defensive coordinator Ron Meeks in their collective ear, the group actually prides itself on trying to turn up the heat.
"There's a lot of enthusiasm out there, a lot of emotion," defensive tackle Tank Tyler said. "The D-line is working hard."
To work on their lateral quickness, the defensive linemen opened individual drills by negotiating some blue pads laid in a straight line along the grass.
After running over the pads straight-on to get warmed up, they navigated them by moving side-to-side, squatting to touch each of the pads on the way by. They then made another sideways run through, this time focusing on getting through the pads as quickly as possible.
Next, the line did extensive work on attacking a running back as a unit. Four linemen got down in their stance, pretending that the blue pad in front of them was an offensive lineman, and when defensive quality control coach Sam Mills III "snapped" a ball attached to the end of a pole, the linemen collectively charged through the pads.
They ended the period by taking turns attacking different sides, trying to sweep their foot on the appropriate corner of the pad while going by to simulate the proper angle to take.
PRACTICE PLAUDITS: Several rookies were among those making attention-grabbing plays in Thursday's lone practice.
Rookie cornerback Robert McClain came up with a nice interception of a pass thrown by fellow rookie Tony Pike during a team period in the red zone, shortly after McClain broke up a pass.
Rookie defensive end Greg Hardy got to quarterback Hunter Cantwell for the closest thing to a sack a player can get with quarterbacks off-limits, and rookie wide receiver Brandon LaFell caught a deep ball from Matt Moore.
Veterans made their share of plays as well. Dwayne Jarrett hauled in a long one from Moore one snap before LaFell's grab, and tight end Jeff King made possibly the best catch of camp, leaping high for one-handed snag in the back of the end zone with defenders Dan Connor and Charles Godfrey right there.
Fourth-year corner C.J. Wilson got a pick just like McClain, when Marcus Hudson wrestled a Cantwell pass away from tight end Dante Rosario and Wilson cleaned up.
The Panthers had NFL officials take part in practice for the first time during training camp Thursday, and they threw one notable flag: an offensive pass interference call on Rosario that negated his touchdown.
CAMP CONTINUES: The Panthers will go through a pair of practices Friday, at 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., before packing up for Charlotte in anticipation of Fan Fest at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday morning.