SPARTANBURG, S.C. – There's nothing quite like a high-speed hit to help make sure an NFL quarterback is ready for the regular season, but there's nothing more important than having a healthy quarterback for the start of the season.
The Panthers' quarterbacks wear red jerseys throughout training camp, a colorful reminder that they're off-limits to on-coming rushers.
On the other hand, the individual drills the quarterbacks go through are set at a high-speed pace to help get them ready for the rush once the red jerseys come off.
Five blue pads are lined up in a row, and the quarterbacks take turns stepping over them at a quick but controlled pace before throwing a pass on the run to a waiting ball boy.
They repeat the drill with variations, first dancing around the pads and planting for a throw, then dropping back before stepping over the pads and delivering a pass against their body.
Next, the pads are pushed aside, and the quarterbacks take turns retreating into the end zone and firing a pass out wide to around the 20-yard line. They follow with a five-step drop and a strike to the 25-yard line near the hash mark. Finally, they fake a handoff, then step to one side based on a surprise signal that quarterback coach Rip Scherer gives before zipping a pass over the middle.
After the horn sounds to end the fast-paced period, the quarterbacks team up with various other units so all can work together on what they worked on apart – from three-step and five-step drops for passes to wide receivers with no defense in the mix, to an 11-on-11 team period and just about everything in between.
REACHING THE GOAL: Late in Wednesday's morning practice, the 10th session of training camp, the Panthers ran six full-contact plays near the goal line, which certainly produced the desired intensity level.
The first team needed three running plays from the 3-yard line to score, with running back Josh Vaughan getting around the left side for the touchdown.
The second team scored on its first shot, when Hunter Cantwell play-faked and found tight end Dante Rosario wide open in the back right corner of the end zone.
Finally, the third team nearly scored on its first snap, when recently signed running back Dantrell Savage got it inside the 1, but on the next play – the final play of the period – linebacker Mortty Ivy threw Savage for a loss.
"It was kind of exciting to see, both sides of the ball getting after it," quarterback Matt Moore said. "The first time you hit, it's a big deal. Hopefully, I don't have to experience it for a while, but it got all of those guys amped up.
"I thought both sides executed pretty well."
QUICK HITTERS: The quarterbacks had a lot of success with deep passes over the middle in both practices Wednesday. In the morning, Jimmy Clausen hit tight end Gary Barnidge and wide receiver Dwayne Jarrett deep in the middle of the field on consecutive plays, then Tony Pike did the same to receiver Wallace Wright. … In the afternoon, Jarrett and tight end Jamie Petrowski scored on passes over the middle in the red zone, and from near midfield, Matt Moore zipped one deep in a seam to wide receiver Kenny Moore. … The catch of the day, however, followed soon after to the sideline, with rookie wide receiver Brandon LaFell hauling in a lob down the right side from Moore.
COMING DAYS AT CAMP: The Panthers will practice Thursday at 3 p.m., then continue the rotation with two practices on Friday at 9 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
Then it's off to Charlotte for the weekend, with the annual Fan Fest kicking off at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday. The festivities start at 8 a.m., and the Panthers will take the field for practice at 11 a.m.