SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Carolina Panthers training camp from Wofford College:
On a rainy day when you'd think the Panthers would be careful with their franchise quarterback recovering from offseason ankle surgery, they turned him loose. Cam Newton ran the read option and was allowed to scramble for the first time in training camp. He did it under a steady downpour and showed no issues. Also, running back Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) practiced for the first time in camp. He didn't do much as the team was not in pads, but looked quick hitting the hole and catching a swing pass. The return of these two should be a boost for an offense that managed only 75 yards in the first half with the first-team during Friday night's 20-18 loss to Buffalo. Both will play next Sunday night against Kansas City.
Wide receiver Tavarres King's stock is definitely on the rise. He made several nice catches from Newton on this wet day after catching four for 50 yards against Buffalo. Although there's no official depth chart, I'd move him to No. 4 behind Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant and ahead of Brenton Bersin, who I had fourth going into the preseason opener. Rivera said afterward this is what Carolina expected out of King when they claimed the 2013 fifth-round pick out of Georgia after he was waived by Denver in October.
The Panthers came close to their first fight of training camp -- and it wasn't really close -- when fullback Richie Brockel gave safety Tom Nelson and extra shove and then threw the ball at him after a catch near the sideline. Coach Ron Rivera quickly moved in and reminded Brockel that would have been a 15-yard penalty in a game and that it was important to keep his poise. The Carolina coaching staff showed little tolerance for such penalties last season. Defensive end Frank Alexander seemingly disappeared in terms of playing time after being ejected and subsequently fined $15,750 for throwing a punch in the opener against Seattle.
Three of Carolina's biggest stars made big plays on consecutive plays during a red zone drill. First, Newton completed a pass to first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin, who cradled the ball thrown low and behind him as he slid to the ground. It wasn't as spectacular as his 29-yard touchdown against Buffalo in which he stumbled, gathered himself and made the catch as he went to the ground, but it again showed he his ability to adjust to the ball. As he said afterwards, you make more catches with your eyes than your hands. He gets high numbers on both. On the next play, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly picked off a Newton pass in the end zone. Outside linebacker Thomas Davis let Newton know it, too, shouting, "Gotcha 1! Gotcha 1!''
Rookie defensive end Kony Ealy was wearing a boot after suffering a mild foot sprain against Buffalo. It was not serious enough for an MRI. ... Undrafted rookie wide receiver Philly Brown, competing for a job at wide receiver and punt returner, was out with a hamstring injury. ... Offensive tackle Nate Chandler was out with a minor knee injury that kept him out of practice one day last week. ... Defensive end Charles Johnson was out again with a hamstring injury.
The Panthers practice at 9:25 a.m. on Monday, then conclude camp Tuesday in Spartanburg with a 9:25 a.m. practice. Rivera said both will be in full pads. I'd expect some scrimmage-like conditions as he looks to settle the left tackle battle between Byron Bell and Nate Chandler. Sounds like it's definitely Bell's to lose.