Time Off For Good Behavior


The Carolina Panthers are getting healthier and they must be doing something right on the practice field.  They were given the day off on Tuesday.

They will have to be at work tomorrow morning to watch film but there will be no practice.  Media sources tell us that the team has been putting in better work than they were putting in the last days in Spartanburg.  Maybe they had their minds on getting out of Dodge.

As for the health of the team – Saturday saw both Steve Smith and Ken Lucas return to practice.  Smith had been out with a concussion and, of course, Lucas has been out with his broken nose.  This time, they managed to co-exist peacefully.

Sunday saw the return of CB Chris Gamble, TE’s Dante Rosario and Chris Conklin.  That left four players on the sidelines to work the stationary bikes – WR D.J. Hackett, WR Muhsin Muhammad (ribs), SS Chris Harris (groin) and TE Gary Barnidge (gluteal strain).

Soon, the team should/could be at full strength again.

Here are some highlights of what the mainstream media are covering:

Landon Johnson is making progress but still backing up Na’il Diggs.

“You never really know what to expect coming in, but I think things have gone pretty well,” the soft-spoken Johnson said. “I’m learning the defense and I’m enjoying playing with my teammates and I like the coaches a lot; I can’t complain about anything.

“You’re never promised anything. You just go out there and do your work and see what happens, that’s what I’m doing. I’m trying to work, and that’s the same thing he’s doing.”

There’s no question Johnson was productive enough to warrant a job. He led Cincinnati in tackles three of the last four years, while playing all three linebacker spots at different junctures. He started 53 games there — 21 on the weakside, 20 in the middle and 12 at strongside — registering at least 130 tackles three times.

It gives you a good feeling that Johnson had the goods to play all three linebacker spots in Cincy.  After the money the team gave him to sign as a free agent, you would have to think he eventually gets on the field somehow.

“I’m really glad I got the opportunity to play all three positions in Cincinnati, that was a very valuable experience because as far as going into a game and having a feel for all three spots,” Johnson said. “I’m just looking forward to the season and hopefully I can help us win.

“I mean, there’s a little saying, the more you can do the better, so you can’t limit yourself to anything. You have to keep an open mind and learn as much as possible as quick as possible and then just be ready wherever they need you.”

As recent years here have shown, that could be anywhere, which makes him a a near-perfect fit for the Panthers.

Last season, the steady Diggs was shuffled aside so Jon Beason could start on the weakside until Dan Morgan had the perhaps inevitable season-ending injury. Diggs got his job back four weeks later when Beason moved inside for good. They also relied on Draft in the past, spotting him wherever the need was that week, knowing he was capable at all of them.

“He was a player we liked, a guy who had been productive with his other team,” Panthers coach John Fox said. “And he was our kind of guy, and so we thought he fit well.

“Where he ends up is a little bit on him. So far he’s done a good job and he’s a guy we’re very happy with.”

This is one to keep an eye on.  If Johnson keeps making plays when he’s on the field it will be difficult to keep him out of the game.

Jordan Gross is rolling with the punches.

The nice thing about having a veteran like Jordan Gross on your team is he never gets rattled.

New position (again)? No problem.

No long-term contract? No big deal.

Need to run behind him to pick up that big third-and-one? Not an issue.

This past off-season, the Panthers made the decision to draft rookie Jeff Otah in the first round and, you guessed it, sent Gross back to left tackle to protect quarterback Jake Delhomme’s blindside.

“It was a little learning process early in camp, but the last 10 days or so I’ve felt really, really comfortable there on the left side,” Gross said of the move. “I feel like I’m kind of picking up where I left off.”

“He’s a talented guy,” coach John Fox said. “He’s played both of them for us and we think he’s played at a high level. We thought it was natural. The way the draft fell and being able to get a tackle in the draft that we felt was worthy of (starting), we felt that (moving Gross) gave us the best chance at the tackle positions.”

Interesting read on Mackenzie Bernadeau.

Bernadeau also is the only player ever drafted from Bentley, an academically rigorous Division II school in his hometown of Waltham, Mass. The Panthers became interested in him even after he missed the second half of his senior season with a knee injury and didn’t play in postseason all-star games.

And Bernadeau (pronounced Bur-NAR-doe) has shown Panthers coaches he’ll do whatever it takes to make the team by switching from guard (a position where the Panthers stocked up during the off-season) to center.

“This has all been exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time,” said Bernadeau.

Tags: Carolina Panthers Chris Conklin Chris Gamble Chris Harris D.J. Hackett Dante Rosario Gary Barnidge Jordan Gross Ken Lucas Landon Johnson Mackenzie Bernadeau Muhsin Muhammad Steve Smith Training Camp