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Carolina Panthers

Training Camp Observations: Day 6, Fan Fest


CHARLOTTE — Bryce Young threw the interception.

But Frank Reich admitted it was all his fault.

The Panthers head coach said the late pick by his rookie quarterback was a case of him putting Young in a bad spot and a function of their experimentation as an offense as they develop.

With 15 seconds left in a two-minute drill segment, Young threw one up for wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. in the corner. It was tipped by cornerback Herb Miller and caught by linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill (his third pick of camp).

"The last play, something I did to him put him in a bad spot," Reich said. "It was good for me. I told him it was my fault; I told him to do something I shouldn't have told him to do. He did a great job the whole practice."

Asked if he could expand on that, Reich laughed and said, "Not really. I will on a Sunday during the regular season."

But then he expanded on it.

"You get in those situations at the end, and you've got 15 seconds left. So what do you want to do? You want to take a shot into the end zone? That's what the defense is going to do. So sometimes you take your medicine, kick the field goal with 15 seconds to go, and then you have to kick off.

"In this situation, sometimes what you find is — and I feel like we're in midseason form, this is good stuff — sometimes you want to see if the defense is going to screw it up. I wanted to see what our defense was going to do. So let's just go out there and run four verts and see if the defense runs the wrong coverage, and then we can throw it away. And they got a pretty good rush, and I put him in a hard position. So we all learned from it."

Reich said he and quarterbacks coach Josh McCown immediately talked about being glad to learn this lesson now.

"It's good for us to go through, especially for me as a play-caller," Reich said.

— Aside from the fireworks and the lasers and the practice, there was a clear highlight during Reich's press conference.

The 61-year-old head coach was discussing finding a role for Grugier-Hill on defense based on his recent play-making and said: "It doesn't have to be tradish."

As in short for traditional, but an abbreviation none in the press room were expecting.

When Jeremy Chinn was talking moments later, he was asked if Reich struck him as the kind of guy who would use "tradish" casually in a sentence.

"I don't even know what that means," Chinn deadpanned.

— Attendance was impressive for a weeknight Fan Fest.

The final count was 39,522 tickets distributed, and plenty of fans were in the midfield sections of the upper deck.

"What a great crowd out there on a Wednesday night," Reich said. "I don't know how many were out there, but it felt like a lot. The players fed off that."

– Chinn said he'll take the simple route if people outside the building ask him to characterize his role on the defense, simply iterating his listed roster title – safety.

But in actuality, Chinn's not a fan of reducing his position at all. He said he's utilized creatively in new defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero's scheme. He could deem himself a nickel or dime corner spot, but even that may diminish how versatile he can be.

"I feel like that just kind of puts it in a box a little bit," Chinn said. "I mean, there's so many areas that they're moving me around the field. So just saying I'll just be a nickel, you know, it doesn't really do it justice."

The short version is, he's going to be closer to the line of scrimmage, with a couple of veteran safeties in Xavier Woods and Vonn Bell to patrol the deep middle. That should put him in position to make more plays.

Even if it's hard to describe.

— Cornerback CJ Henderson was back in uniform and on the field Wednesday night, helping alleviate some of the concerns about depth at his position. He had missed a couple of practices with a groin issue.

Undrafted rookie Rejzohn Wright has also been missing from recent practices, so the Panthers had a bit of a concern from a numbers standpoint, and could still add there.

But with Henderson back on the field, and starters Jaycee Horn and Donte Jackson returning to something very close to full participation, that's less of a big deal.

Rookie running back Camerun Peoples was also back, after missing a couple of practices after experiencing heat-related symptoms in Spartanburg.

Outside linebacker Marquis Haynes Sr. (back) remains on the sidelines.

– Running backs showed power and speed in the padded practice.

Chuba Hubbard continued to flash physicality as he's shown throughout camp, breaking away for some nice runs during team periods at Bank of America Stadium.

He's put on some muscle this offseason as he works to position himself behind Miles Sanders, the recent Pro Bowler and former Philadelphia Eagle.

Hubbard wasn't the only rusher making waves. Spencer Brown made a speedy run downfield, evading potential stoppers en route to a big gain.

He was a practice squad running back for much of 2022, and in a room with Raheem Blackshear and Peoples, Brown's making his own noise.

— While many Fan Fest practices have been conducted in shorts and shells, they went in full pads Wednesday night, just the second time during camp they've done so.

That meant fun in lineman one-on-ones.

While it's easy to get caught watching edge-rushers try to use speed, it was interesting to see center Bradley Bozeman and nose tackle Marquan McCall going at it.

McCall's got more burst than a man of his girth should. You'd probably call it "short-area quickness" because he isn't going far. But matched up against a powerful center like Bozeman, neither one of them was going very far.

That was 670 pounds of stalemate, which isn't a bad thing for either side.

We've already seen how Bozeman can change a game — like he did last year when the Panthers became one of the league's top run games.

But McCall could end up playing a lot of snaps in the middle, and he has the kind of wide frame that's natural to anchor a 3-4 front.

A total of 24 former players were on hand for the festivities and got a nice greeting from fans while being introduced before the game.

The legends to appear Wednesday included, in no particular order: Al Wallace, Charles Johnson, Ryne Robinson, Richard Huntley, Luther Broughton, Rhys Lloyd, Omar Gaither, Curtis Deloatch, Carlton Bailey, Don Sasa, Kawann Short, Quinton Teal, Mike Tolbert, Dwight Stone, Captain Munnerlyn, Dwan Edwards, Mark Rodenhauser, Mike Rucker, Leonard Wheeler, Nate Salley, James Anderson, Chris Gamble, Hilee Taylor, and Tre Boston.

The Carolina Panthers and Atrium Health teamed up to host the annual Play 60 Day at Training Camp. Kids participated in interactive activities that promote getting 60 minutes of physical activity every day.

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