Christian McCaffrey participates in first practice with Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Christian McCaffrey made the most of his first career NFL minicamp.

Which means Carolina's first-round draft pick made the most of one day.

McCaffrey, sidelined by NFL rules that required him to wait until Stanford officially completed its academic year, got his first action on the field with the Carolina Panthers on their final day of minicamp Thursday.

"I felt really good," the running back said who has been in constant communication with coaches. "I already knew all the plays coming into today. ... It was just about coming out here and knowing what I'm doing and playing fast, and the next practice, whenever that is, will be the same thing."

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound running back is expected to contribute to the Carolina offense in many ways, much like he did at Stanford, where he led the NCAA with 211.5 all-purpose yards a game last year.

"It was nice just to have him, as brief as it was. I think his teammates got the feel for the flair he can bring to what we want to do offensively," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "We're real excited about what he can do and his abilities and the things that he's going to open up for his teammates. ... He's going to take a lot of pressure off of people as well.

"The biggest thing is we've given our quarterback another weapon, another tool."

McCaffrey is expected take the pressure off of running back Jonathan Stewart as well as tight end Greg Olsen and receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess.

"I hope I'm used in a lot of ways, but it's not up to me," McCaffrey said. "Wherever they need to put me, that's where I'm going to play."

While waiting to join the team, McCaffrey was at home in Colorado, not even taking classes this quarter. Even though he wasn't taking classes, he could not join the team until exams were finished Wednesday.

That meant he had been training at a high elevation but not the Carolina heat and humidity.

"It's very opposite -- out there, you can't breathe that well and here you can almost breathe too much," McCaffrey said. "The humidity is fine. I think the heat is what I'm not used to. The dry air in Colorado isn't like this, but I'll get used to it."

Rookies can spend another week at the team facility although they can't have interaction with the coaches.

"I'd like to see some exceptions [to the rule], but it is what it is," he said about having to wait to join the team. "I followed the rule. It wasn't ideal for me. ... I'm back here now and ready to play ball."

McCaffrey said he was told by his teammates to give great effort and have fun.

"I got really lucky coming to a place like this with a lot of vets helping me out and the coaches have been great," McCaffrey said.

"So I just came in -- I've been studying so hard -- so today was just about going out and playing fast."