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Talking about practice: Day 12

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – After starting training camp with practices scheduled in the evening, the Panthers felt a change was in order.

In an effort to avoid evening storms, the team began practicing in the morning and following day three with the altered schedule, head coach Ron Rivera said he's pleased with the new routine.

"When we changed things up, it gave us a little variety to what we're doing," Rivera said. "(The players') focus is at a different time, and they don't have to worry all day about practice coming up at 6:30. It's got its value.

"As long as we continue to get this type of weather and the possibility of rain in the afternoon, we'll continue to practice in the morning."

ATTENDANCE REPORT

Linebacker Jon Beason missed practice due to a tweaked hamstring suffered during Wednesday's workout. Rivera said Beason "probably won't play" in the preseason opener against the Houston Texans Saturday, but added that the linebacker is expected back on the practice field next week.

Cornerback Josh Norman had been absent from practice since suffering a hamstring injury on the third day of training camp, but the rookie returned to action Thursday.

Wide receiver Steve Smith, who sat out Wednesday with a bruised knee, practiced in full Thursday.

Left tackle Jordan Gross was given a "veteran" day off.

Linebacker Thomas Davis, guard Mike Pollak, cornerback Brandon Hogan and wide receiver Rico Wallace did not participate.


INSTANT REPLAYS

--The power running game got off to a strong start early in team drills. Running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart each burst through some big holes between the tackles.

--Running back Lyndon Rowells displayed impressive vision during team drills. Rowells took a handoff running right before finding a huge cutback lane to his left, and he charged through the opening for a big gain.

--Wideout Brenton Bersin had a productive day, making a tough catch in traffic over the middle and getting open for a few connections near the sidelines.

--Kicker Justin Medlock went 4-for-4 on his field goal attempts, while Olindo Mare went 2-for-4. All the attempts were from at least 40 yards out. 

--Quarterback Cam Newton lofted a high ball for tight end Gary Barnidge near the right sideline, but safety Reggie Smith made up ground and elevated over the top of the tight end to knock down the pass.

--Linebacker Luke Kuechly recorded another interception. This time the rookie caught the ball after quarterback Derek Anderson's pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage.


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SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

Former Panthers general manager Bill Polian watched part of practice with current general manager Marty Hurney. Polian is in town to broadcast an NFL radio show with Sirius XM.

Polian spent some time chatting with Panthers.com after practice and below are some of his thoughts on the club's personnel heading into the 2012 season.

--On challenges Newton faces this year:  "Defenses around the league now know what he can do. They have spent the offseason – particularly in the division and conference – preparing for him. They're going to have special packages that they play the Panthers with that they might not use for other people. He and the coaching staff have to find ways to counteract that."

--On what fullback Mike Tolbert's addition provides the offense: "It gives them a bona fide ability to run the ball week in and week out no matter what the injury situation. If both DeAngelo and Jonathan happen to be nicked the same week, enter Tolbert. Very good pickup."

--On expectations for tight end Greg Olsen: "There's no question about it, he can be a game-changer. Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski play in a completely different offense, they are worlds apart. So you can't expect Greg to get those kinds of numbers. Can you expect him to be a big time playmaker? Absolutely. He can be an every down tight end that does everything well. You can expect him to develop into a bona fide security blanket for Cam."

--On rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly: "I felt that based on my study on him, that he was the prototypical Will linebacker in the system that we used in Indianapolis. And in talking to him and seeing him, he's a three-down player. The best thing he does right now is (play) as an instinctive pass defender. He gets to the ball. I don't care what he runs on the watch, he gets to the ball. He's by far the most advanced cover linebacker I've seen come into the league in a while."

--On the key to improvement on defense: "It's predicated on pass rush. You can manufacture it, which Ron (Rivera) is perfectly capable of doing and, ideally, you get pressure from the front four. Bottom line, the defense will rise and fall on the pass rush. Now, there's speed and aggression and instinct at the linebacker position and if the injured guys come back, this will be as good a linebacker group as there is in the league. When you have a group that's among the best in the league, that's a pretty good jumping off point."


NEXT UP: The Panthers will practice from 2:45 to 5:00 p.m. Friday, the team's final practice before the preseason opener versus the Houston Texans at Bank of America Stadium Saturday at 7 p.m.

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