SPARTANBURG, S.C. – After 24 hours off, the Panthers were back at it Wednesday night, and according to head coach Ron Rivera, the players looked both refreshed and a bit rusty.
Rivera was pleased with the first and second team offense's hurry-up effort in the two-minute drill, which was included in the training camp practice routine for the first time.
"You could tell they had been off for a while, but it was good work," Rivera said. "Guys really worked hard and gave great effort, so I'm real excited about what they did today."
Cornerback Josh Norman (hamstring), cornerback Brandon Hogan (knee), and linebacker Thomas Davis (knee) did not participate.
Rivera said the health of his young corners early on in camp has been concerning.
"(I'm) real concerned. The young guys, you make good strides but then you take a couple of steps back because you're not on the field," he said. "You'd like to have them back on the field; in fact, they've got to get back on the field because the other guys are getting reps and getting better. That's the bottom line.
"It's unfortunate that they got nicked, but at the same time you've got to take care of yourself, you've got to do what you're supposed to do and do the best you can to get back out there."
In their absence, Rivera said several corners have stepped up.
"Darius Butler most certainly has, and Josh Thomas. Those two guys, and Stanford. Those three guys have done a tremendous job, have done yeoman's work. They've had to do a little extra."
Additionally, rookie wide receivers Rico Wallace, Lamont Bryant and Hubert Anyiam all missed practice again with hamstring injuries.
"It's tough (when) you tweak your hamstring, especially as receivers in this offense that calls for you to go vertical," Rivera said. "They've just got to get healthy, and when they're ready to go they've got to make sure they stay in the playbook and prepare."
The first team offense and defense, followed by the second team units, went head to head in a two-minute drill. The drill started from the offense's own 25-yard line with 1:45 on the clock and two timeouts available.
Quarterback Cam Newton and the first team offense engineered a nine-play scoring drive. Newton completed 7-of-9 passes (one incompletion results from a spike) and used four different receivers (Steve Smith, Greg Olsen, Seyi Ajirotutu and Jonathan Stewart).
After using both of the allotted timeouts, Newton spiked the ball with 17 seconds left. He then lofted a pass to Smith in the far right corner of the end zone, and Smith dragged both feet inbounds for the score.
"I thought (the two-minute drill) was good," Rivera said. "If you go back and look at it, Cam's command of our two-minute drill has always been good. He did a real nice job with it. It's a lot of fun to watch him."
Quarterback Derek Anderson and the second team offense worked down to the red zone, but the defense stood tall. With nine seconds left, Anderson fired a pass to Louis Murphy in the back of the end zone, but the ball bounced off his chest and fell incomplete.
Anderson looked for Murphy near the left pylon on the next play, but cornerback Josh Thomas broke up the pass as time expired.
"Derek did a nice job of getting us down there, and then (Josh Thomas) made a real nice play when he collapsed right in front of Louis Murphy," Rivera said. "That was a good plus for the defense."
--Smith claimed the No.1 play of camp with a jaw-dropping, leaping catch in team drills. Newton fired a pass down the left sideline, and Smith leaped into the air to snag the ball in between cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and safety Haruki Nakamura. Smith somehow landed on his feet and picked up a few more yards after the catch to boot.
--On the next play, Ajirotutu got past cornerback R.J. Stanford on a double-move, and Newton launched the ball for a long completion.
--Cornerback Chris Gamble intercepted a pass for the second consecutive day when he picked off Newton's pass attempt for Smith near the right sideline.
-- During one-on-one drills between receivers and coverage players, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn picked one off on the sideline in front of wide receiver Michael Avila, reaching to get a hand on it and tipping it to himself just before going out of bounds.
--During seven-on-seven drills, Jonathan Nelson read Darvin Adams' route perfectly, and stepped in front of him to intercept Newton.
--Newton looked for Murphy on a post pattern down the left side during team drills and the wide receiver reached up to make a terrific catch in traffic, as Gamble and safety Charles Godfrey both converged on the ball.
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
--Before a goal-to-go play in a red zone drill, a fan behind the end zone yelled, "Cam, throw a TD, baby!" The fan got a thumbs-up from Newton and appeared to get the TD pass when Newton threaded one for Brandon LaFell in the back of the end zone, but LaFell didn't control it quite long enough before cornerback Darius Butler raked it out.
--At the start of practice, the linebackers and safeties were tasked with covering tight ends and running backs in one-on-ones. Linebacker Luke Kuechly and Godfrey each received applause for impressive pass-breakups.
--The running backs later partook in a blitz pick-up drill, and fullback Mike Tolbert produced a crunching block on safety Kion Wilson.
STAFF MEETS WITH OTAH
Rivera confirmed that he and general manager Marty Hurney met with offensive tackle Jeff Otah today after the trade to the Jets was voided.
"We sat down and had a nice discussion," Rivera said. "Everything hinges on him going back and getting that physical."
NEXT UP:The Panthers will return to the practice fields at Wofford on Thursday at 6 p.m. Friday's practice has been moved to a 3:30 p.m. start.