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Carolina Panthers

Talking about practice: Day 4


SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Mother Nature wasn't alone in delivering a blow during the Panthers' first midday practice of training camp Tuesday.

Rain pelted the players throughout the session, and the players pelted each other as the first, inevitable minor skirmishes of camp broke out during a second consecutive day in full pads.

Rookie defensive end Ryan Van Bergen and guard Roger Allen started it with a brief exchange on the turf. Later, an aggressive tackle by linebacker James Anderson on running back Jonathan Stewart – one that knocked Stewart's helmet off – further fired up the troops.

On the next play, wide receiver Steve Smith and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn jawed at each other and then shoved each other after a Smith reception.

"It got a little chippy today. That's good and bad," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "You want to see guys fighting and competing, but at the same time you want them to be smart and take care of their teammates."

No real harm came from the exchanges. Stewart soon returned to the fray after getting up slowly following Anderson's hit, and the players left the field smiling, in part because they'll now enjoy a 24-hour break.

"In camp guys get emotional. There is a lot of aggression going on and sometimes a fight happens," Anderson said. "But we're teammates, so it's nothing hostile. It's just a little grabbing and pushing."

Rivera appreciated the spirit shown in the rain, and he also was pleased that the conditions didn't dampen the spirits of Panthers fans, who turned out in good numbers and stayed until the end.


"In this kind of weather, it's neat to have a big crowd of people," Rivera said. "The unfortunate thing was that because of the way our practice schedule was set, we were on the farthest field away from them, so we didn't get to really interact with them like we had the last few days. But we really do appreciate them coming out and showing their support."

Some of the players, among them rookie right guard Amini Silatolu, were actually fans of the rain.

"The rain really helped because it's been so humid," Silatolu said. "It's how football is meant to be. It was fun."

Rivera predicted that practicing in the rain would pay dividends down the road. It certainly did in Week 3 last season, when the Panthers handled the Jacksonville Jaguars in monsoon-like conditions at Bank of America Stadium.

"I mentioned to the guys that last year when we were getting ready for the Jacksonville game, we practiced three straight days in bad weather, and it was to our benefit," Rivera said. "There was a huge deluge in the game, and we didn't turn the ball over.

"This is all a part of the game. You practice in the elements; you play in the elements. I thought we handled it pretty well."


Cornerback Josh Norman, who left practice early Monday with a hamstring injury, sat out Tuesday's practice. Linebacker Thomas Davis, coming back from his third major knee injury, also sat out.

"It's still sore. It's not as bad as previously thought, so we'll treat it as day-by-day," Rivera said of Norman. "We should get him back out there pretty soon.

"Thomas is still a little bit sore, so we thought we'd be better off if we kept him out."

--As scheduled, defensive tackle Ron Edwards took Tuesday off, while Smith returned to action after a scheduled off day Monday.

--Rookie wideouts Hubert Anyiam, Lamont Bryant and Rico Wallace did not participate for the second consecutive day.


Defensive end Charles Johnson made perhaps the play of camp thus far. On a wide receiver screen thrown by quarterback Cam Newton toward Smith, Johnson faked like he was coming after Newton but then backpedaled and stepped in the path of Newton's toss for a leaping interception.

--On a subsequent snap, cornerback Chris Gamble picked off Newton on a deep pass intended for wide receiver Brandon LaFell that sailed long.

--After the back-to-back "chippy" plays, safety Sherrod Martin sniffed out a reverse designed for Smith and swiped the ball from an unsuspecting Newton.

--Safety Haruki Nakamura found a way to slow down tight end Greg Olsen, a favorite target throughout camp. On a fade pattern for Olsen in the end zone, the 5-10 Nakamura brought the 6-5 Olsen down to size by bringing him to the ground with the ball in flight.

There were no flags on the play only because there are no flags in play – referees weren't present for the practice though they occasionally are.

Anderson and fellow linebacker Luke Kuechly also stepped in front and broke up passes intended for Olsen.

--Wide receiver Kealoha Pilares found the end zone twice on underneath routes, and fellow wideout Armanti Edwards continued a sure-handed camp with a touchdown.

--Overall, the Panthers went heavy on run plays during team periods, with Stewart and rookie Tauren Poole ripping off nice runs. Fullback Mike Tolbert also made a dazzling one-handed catch on a ball thrown behind him in the deep flat.


Newton may have gotten picked off a couple of times, but he had his share of good moments as well, and he had fun with them. Newton enjoyed a celebratory clap after Smith hauled in a touchdown pass over the middle, and when he scored on a rushing touchdown, he broke into "Bees' Knees," a dance style that originated in Charleston, S.C., in the 1920s.

For those not schooled in Roaring '20s dance crazes, Newton put his hands on his knees, pulled his knees together and then quickly switched his hands from knee to knee repeatedly.

--Linebackers coach Warren Belin brimmed with positive energy. He celebrated wildly when linebackers Jason Phillips and Jordan Senn teamed up to "sack" quarterback Derek Anderson, and he excitedly slammed some paperwork on the wet turf when James Anderson broke up a pass toward Stewart.


The Panthers return to the Wofford practice fields Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. The team also announced that Friday's practice has been moved up and will start at 3:30 p.m.

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