Panthers wrap up training camp|Hope physical practices lead to more production

Published 11:31 am Thursday, August 19, 2010

By By MIKE CRANSTON, AP Sports Writer
SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Rookies were spared when the Carolina Panthers finished training camp on Wednesday morning. Nobody was taped to a goalpost or doused with ice water.
A few players stuck around to sign autographs, but most quickly headed to the locker room or immediately jumped in their cars to head back to Charlotte.
Maybe they were too tired to do anything else.
‘‘I tell you what man, this camp was definitely intense,’’ said defensive end Everette Brown, one of the few players to linger on the Wofford stadium field. ‘‘There were a lot of challenging days coming out, especially in full pads.’’
Coach John Fox put one of the NFL’s youngest teams through a physical camp with plenty of hitting and workouts in full pads in intense heat. They had a full contact session as late in camp as Sunday.
Fox called it a ‘‘productive camp’’ with a ‘‘bunch of guys I didn’t know that well’’ after an offseason veteran purge left Carolina without nine starters from a year ago.
‘‘Watching them kind of gel together, I like the way they’ve gone about their business,’’ Fox said.
But even after 26 practices and a preseason game over three weeks, there are numerous unanswered questions.
While Matt Moore has looked good in camp, he had little time to throw in the loss to Baltimore last week behind what is supposed to be a stout offensive line. Moore, replacing longtime starter Jake Delhomme, is clearly the No. 1 QB.
But rookie Jimmy Clausen had an impressive camp has passed Hunter Cantwell for the No. 2 job.
‘‘Hopefully, we don’t have other holes to plug and we can get that oiled up and actually watch our passing game work,’’ Fox said. ‘‘You can’t do anything in the passing game without protection.’’
There continues to be a dizzying number of defensive tackles working with the first team. While rookie Greg Hardy has shined, it’s still unknown if a collection of unheralded defensive ends can combine for the same number of sacks lost when five-time Pro Bowl pick Julius Peppers left in free agency.
Nobody has taken hold of the No. 2 receiver job after Muhsin Muhammad wasn’t re-signed, and rookie Armanti Edwards has struggled in his transformation from college quarterback to receiver and punt returner.
‘‘Day one I was really lost out here. I was out here thinking when I was running routes,’’ Edwards said. ‘‘To look back from that day to this day, I think I progressed.’’
Edwards is part of one facet made clear from the practices in steamy Spartanburg. The Panthers have a lot of team speed — sometimes maybe showing too much during drills.
Linebacker Jon Beason said there aren’t many veterans left who ‘‘realize that the mental part of the game is so much more important than the actual physical part’’ during camp.
‘‘Young guys come in and they’re trying to earn a spot,’’ Beason said. ‘‘They don’t know any better, so practices are full speed every snap, everything you have just to prove you belong and make a name for yourself because the coaches don’t know you. I think that’s been the biggest difference this camp. It’s been a very physical camp.’’
The Panthers did appear to avoid any serious injuries. Defensive end Tyler Brayton twisted his left ankle against Baltimore, but isn’t expected be out long.
Right tackle Jeff Otah hasn’t practiced and had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, but is expected to be ready for the regular-season opener.
Receiver Steve Smith was without a helmet again Wednesday, but did run routes and catch balls as he recovers from a broken left arm. Running back Jonathan Stewart took part in some non-contact team drills for the first time Wednesday as he slowly recovers from offseason heel surgery.
Carolina will practice the next two days in Charlotte before the home preseason opener Saturday against the New York Jets. It’ll be another new experience for the rookies on the NFL’s third-youngest team, many of which didn’t completely escape rookie hazing.
‘‘Well, a couple of the linebackers got thrown into the cold tub yesterday,’’ Edwards said. ‘‘The receivers had to wear autographed helmets for two days. But it wasn’t as bad as the linebackers.’’
NOTES: Fox said starting CBs Richard Marshall and Chris Gamble were excused from Wednesday’s practice for personal reasons. ‘‘No problem. They’ll be at practice (Thursday),’’ Fox said. … S Sherrod Martin (groin), DT Ed Johnson (elbow) and DT Louis Leonard (rest, team decision) also sat out.