CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Observations as the Carolina Panthers continued organized team activities Thursday:
Injury update: Frank Alexander, one of several players vying for the starting defensive end job opposite Charles Johnson, missed practice with a groin injury. The extent of the injury and how long it will keep him out was not known. The Panthers wrap up offseason workouts next week with a Tuesday-to-Thursday minicamp.
Riverboat gone: Coach Ron Rivera was in California to attend the graduation of his daughter, Courtney, from UCLA. In his place was assistant head coach Steve Wilks, who jokingly said he thought about trading quarterback Cam Newton. “But I didn’t think that would go over well,’’ Wilks said.
Shaq is back: First-round draft pick Shaq Thompson returned from the University of Washington in time for the final two practices this week. It’s going to take a while for Thompson to catch up to the point in which he’s ready to be on the field at outside linebacker beside Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis. He spent much of Thursday working with the second team.
More Shaq: One of Thompson’s final essays at Washington was on police brutality. His post-practice interview was cut off by Carolina public relations during follow-up questions.
Glad to be back: Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin didn’t do a lot after missing most of OTAs with a hamstring injury, but he was on the field with a helmet, catching some passes. Benjamin said it felt good to be back, but he’s taking it slowly so as not to suffer a setback.
Highlight: Nickelback Colin Jones picked off a Newton pass at the goal line and returned it all the way for a touchdown. OK, he might have been tackled in a game. But Jones, who is battling Bene’ Benwikere for playing time at the nickel spot, did get a big cheer from the defense. He said it was the same play he was beaten on for a touchdown earlier in the week.
Excused: Strong safety Roman Harper left practice early with an excused absence, leaving more time for Kurt Coleman. Wilks couldn’t say enough good things about the way Coleman has performed and handled himself in meeting rooms during OTAs.