SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Observations from the Carolina Panthers’ joint practice – and final overall practice at Wofford College -- against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday:
Funchess out: Normally, rookie wide receiver Devin Funchess missing practice with a hamstring injury wouldn’t lead the observations. But with No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin out for the season after suffering an ACL injury on Wednesday, Funchess is the most likely candidate to replace the 2014 first-round pick. Coach Ron Rivera said Funchess will be held out of Saturday night’s preseason game against Miami. The goal is for Funchess, this year's second-round pick out of Michigan, to be back next week and ready for the third preseason game against New England.
Baby alert: As Carolina players stretched for the final time at Wofford, backup guard Martin Wallace rushed off the field and jumped on a golf cart to the cheer of his teammates. Wallace’s wife went into labor just about the time training camp ended. “I love her timing,” Rivera quipped. “She let us finish practice.”
Loudest cheer: Cam Newton connected with wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. deep down the left sideline for an 80-yard touchdown on the first play of the final 11-on-11 series for the first team. The crowd of nearly 4,000 screamed loudly as Ginn raced through the end zone and toward the next field. Perhaps it was relief that despite the loss of Benjamin, the Panthers still have a few weapons at receiver.
Standing guard: Rivera personally watched one-on-one drills between his offensive line and Miami’s defensive line to make sure there wasn’t a repeat of Wednesday’s scuffle between Carolina left tackle Michael Oher and end Olivier Vernon. All was calm. But Rivera did like what he saw out of rookie tackle Daryl Williams. If you watch this video, you’ll see Rivera right in the middle of things, directing traffic.
Two TE set: The Panthers ran a lot of two-tight end sets with Greg Olsen and Ed Dickson before Benjamin was injured. They might run more with him out, although Rivera said little should change. Dickson was a big target Thursday.
Record crowd: Thursday’s crowd of 3,950 pushed the total to 77,625 for training camp. That shattered the record of 49,000 set last year.