Beason no longer the man in the middle|Panthers ask star to play weakside LB

Published 7:20 am Friday, July 30, 2010

By By MIKE CRANSTON, AP Sports Writer
SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Jon Beason made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons as a middle linebacker. There’s a good chance he’ll start this season in a new position.
The Carolina Panthers opened training camp Thursday with Beason at weakside linebacker in a revamped lineup following Thomas Davis’ season-ending knee injury last month. While not complaining, it was apparent Beason isn’t crazy about the shuffle after recording a team-record 169 tackles in 2009.
‘‘The only reason I’d prefer to be in the middle is because it’s something I have done, and I’ve done it at a high level,’’ Beason said. ‘‘I do have that comfort zone. but if it can help the team out, I want to do it. If I’ve got to go play running back, I’ll do it.’’
Davis’ second torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in less than a year left the Panthers without their speediest linebacker, who was perhaps having his own Pro Bowl season before first being injured in November.
‘‘Thomas is faster than me. Thomas can jump higher than me. Thomas is a better cover guy than me. Thomas hits really hard. He can do it all,’’ Beason said. ‘‘He’s the prototype (weakside) linebacker you want in this scheme.’’
For now, the Panthers have moved Dan Connor to Beason’s old spot. James Anderson is playing strongside linebacker after Na’il Diggs was let go in the offseason.
The other option for Carolina is to insert newly acquired Jamar Williams at weakside linebacker and keep Beason in the middle. Williams was working with the second unit Thursday morning when he appeared to tweak his hamstring.
FIRST-DAY INJURIES: The tent in the middle of the three practice fields at Wofford College quickly filled up with casualties on Thursday.
Williams and defensive end Charles Johnson were both banged up early in the workout, but clearly the most bizarre injury occurred to linebacker Sean Ware. The undrafted rookie from New Hampshire had an allergic reaction to a bee sting and was taken inside.
They were joined by six players who flunked their physicals for various reasons a day earlier: receiver Steve Smith (arm), running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle), right tackle Jeff Otah (knee), defensive tackle Louis Leonard (knee), guard Duke Robinson (conditioning) and Davis.
Robinson, who was doing conditioning drills on an adjacent field, severely hurt his chances for the open right guard spot. Mackenzy Bernadeau worked with the starters there. Geoff Schwartz was in Otah’s spot.
LINING UP: There were few surprises when the Panthers showed their current starting units during the morning workout in full pads.
Johnson started at defensive end in Julius Peppers’ old spot until he was banged up. Everette Brown then slide into that position.
The Panthers rotated defensive tackles, including Tank Tyler, Ed Johnson and Nick Hayden.
With Smith out for several weeks as he recovers from a broken forearm, Dwayne Jarrett and Kenny Moore worked as the first-team receivers. But Jarrett didn’t get off to a great start, catching heat from the coaching staff when he appeared to run the wrong route during a drill.
Jarrett later complained of pain in his right leg, but continued to practice.
For a team that had a dizzying amount of offseason moves, it was a welcoming sight to see Jordan Gross back at left tackle seven months after breaking his leg.
‘‘I think it shows a lot for me to be out there taking all the reps,’’ Gross said. ‘‘I probably could have milked my injury a little more and taken some time off. But I think it’s important for guys to practice.’’
NO PAD TROUBLE: No Dez Bryants here.
Days after the Dallas rookie refused to carry a veteran Roy Williams’ shoulder pads at the end of a Cowboys practice, linebackers Eric Norwood and Eric Hardy were spotted doing the football ritual for rookies.
Hardy had Beason’s shoulder pads as he walked up the hill to the locker room.
‘‘You know what, everybody carries pads,’’ Beason said. ‘‘All the great ones, all the Hall of Famers, they all carried pads. I carried pads.’’
EXTRA POINTS: Rookie Armanti Edwards, who worked mostly with the third team at receiver, had some difficulty fielding punts near the end of the first workout as he makes the transition from college quarterback. Captain Munnerlyn and Brian Witherspoon also fielded punts. … CB Chris Gamble had the first interception of camp, picking off Matt Moore’s pass over the middle. … Jordan Senn, primarily a special teams player, leveled some jarring hits playing linebacker. … About 7,000 single-game tickets for each of Carolina’s 10 home games go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. They can only be purchased through Ticketmaster and range in price from $39 to $79. … The Panthers practice once on Friday at 3 p.m.