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Panthers expect rookie Shaq Thompson to deliver more than doughnuts

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers first-round draft pick Shaq Thompson didn’t deliver Top Pot doughnuts from Seattle for a two-day minicamp that began on Friday.

“No, this is a business trip," the former University of Washington linebacker said with a smile.

The hand-forged doughnuts were a part of the pre-draft evaluation process of Thompson. Linebackers coach Al Holcomb asked the 6-foot-1, 228-pound prospect to bring some to a private campus workout on April 14.

Thompson did.

But the Panthers didn’t select Thompson with the 25th pick because he’s a reliable delivery man. They selected him because he gives defensive coordinator Sean McDermott the luxury of playing three linebackers on any down, something Carolina didn’t have last season when middle linebacker Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis often played with an extra defensive back.

“Anytime you have playmakers on the field -- and that's what we saw in Shaq in college -- we like the possibilities,’’ McDermott said.

Thompson didn’t have a chance on Friday to truly display the athletic ability that allowed him to play safety and running back at Washington. This was more about teaching the basics and making sure Thompson has the terminology down.

Unlike the other rookies, this is a cram session for Thompson. Because Washington is on a quarter system, he’ll return to campus after Saturday’s session and not return until a June 16 minicamp in which veterans also will participate.

“Huge. Huge,’’ McDermott said of this camp for Thompson. “It’s really a challenge. We’ve got to get him as much information as we can right now so when he gets out west he can review all the information and be successful when he comes back.’’

To help with the process, second-year cornerback BenĂ© Benwikere came to Thompson’s apartment on Thursday night to help teach him the playbook.

Benwikere and Thompson already had a relationship because Benwikere went to San Jose State with Peyton Thompson, Shaq’s cousin.

Even though it’s too early to judge how Thompson will fit into McDermott’s defense that has ranked among the top 10 in the NFL for three straight seasons, early signs were good.

“He moved well,’’ McDermott said. “He looked like he knew what he was doing. Early is the key word. He was right with it. We’re tracking mentally what we expect him to do. It’s now just a matter of reps.’’

Carolina coach Ron Rivera agreed.

“He’s wound very tight,’’ Rivera said. “He’s got a quick initial first step, which you always look for in a linebacker.’’

In other words, the Panthers expect Thompson to deliver -- more than just doughnuts.