Fox trying to mold young team|Panthers’ youth leads to tougher training camp

Published 11:08 am Tuesday, August 17, 2010

By By MIKE CRANSTON, AP Sports Writer
SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Carolina Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross sees positives and negatives to being on the third-youngest team in the NFL.
‘‘We haven’t had, knock on wood, a whole lot of big injuries this camp. Maybe that comes from healthier, younger bodies,’’ Gross said Monday. ‘‘We’ve had a lot of reps and a lot of full-padded days and that probably comes from youth and inexperience, too. The coaches wanting to make sure we know what we’re doing and can see who’s tough and who isn’t out there, so we’ve been tested that way.’’
Gross, Carolina’s first-round pick in 2003, thinks this is one of the toughest training camps he has been in under coach John Fox. After shedding numerous veterans in the offseason, practices have lasted longer. The Panthers even had a full-contact period at the end of Sunday’s workout, a rarity this late in camp.
I would say it’s a tougher camp than we’ve had since we’ve changed to this schedule,’’ Gross said. ‘‘When I first got here, we used to do two (practices) every day. That was harder. But since we’ve moved to the new schedule we’ve done the last four or five years it’s the toughest camp we’ve had. A lot of hitting and a lot of long team periods.’’
Gross said with so many young players and so many open starting spots, the competition has been intense.
‘‘There have been a few fights and people picking at each other,’’ Gross said. ‘‘Some of that comes from youth, too, not really knowing the practice tempo all the time. But overall I like where we’re at. We’ve got a lot of young guys that have really surprised me and stepped up and done well so far.’’
GOODSON BACK: Running back Mike Goodson returned to practice Monday for the first time in two weeks following a sprained left ankle.
When Goodson was first injured on Aug. 1, he feared the worst.
‘‘It was a big scare. It was the back of my ankle and it was lower so I thought right away it was my Achilles’ (tendon) and I thought I would be out for a while,’’ Goodson said. ‘‘But it turned out to be just an ankle sprain.’’
He said trainer Ryan Vermillion and his staff helped him get back fast. ‘‘They worked me and worked me and got me back way faster than I thought I would be back, so I’m very appreciative of that.’’
Goodson, who said he had a mid- to high-ankle sprain, was frustrated to be out when other running backs were injured. It prevented him from getting extra work with the first team as he tries to move up in the depth chart behind DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart.
‘‘It was real hard watching DeAngelo and those guys go out with just two backs and guys are passing out out there. It was real hard to watch,’’ Goodson said. ‘‘But we got healthy and everyone is working back.’’
EXTRA POINTS: RB DeAngelo Williams (personal matter) was absent for a second-straight day. Coach John Fox said he’ll return Tuesday. … CB Chris Gamble said he’s fully recovered from a hyperextended knee that kept him out of the first preseason game. … DE Tyler Brayton’s left foot was still in an air cast after he twisted his ankle in Thursday’s game. … G Ray Hisatake (neck) sat out the workouts. … The Panthers held both practices at Gibbs Stadium. The downpours of the last two days left the three lower fields too wet. The soccer field, where the second practice was originally scheduled, was too wet to line it for football. … The Panthers’ second practice was just a walkthrough in shorts and baseball caps. … The Panthers practice once on Tuesday at 3 p.m. Camp concludes with a single practice Wednesday at 9 a.m.