Day One: That’s A Wrap!


The initial thrill of seeing the players actually take the field is fading now.  Day one of the Carolina Panthers 2008 training camp is over.  In the books.  Complete.

There are a number of highlights and notes that came from this first day of two-a-days.

Steve Reed of the Gaston Gazette has some really good stuff.

Jake Delhomme continues to progress nicely in his return from elbow surgery.

In fact, Delhomme said he doesn’t even notice it anymore.

“The last few years after the first practice I iced right away,” Delhomme said after Saturday morning’s practice. “Now that you brought it up, that’s the first time I’ve thought about it. I just walked past the trainer. I didn’t even think going and putting ice on my arm.

“I will ice, there’s no doubt, but that’s more just trying to stay ahead of the game. We’ll see. Things went well this morning.”

Delhomme is expected to participate in all practices, according to coach John Fox. However, Fox said the Panthers will continue to monitor Delhomme’s progress and make sure he doesn’t overthrow. He didn’t do much in Saturday night’s practice.

“Just like a pitcher in spring training, you don’t want him to wear it out,” Fox said. “But really, we’re handling it no different than any other year.”

As for his timing, Delhomme feels he’s just fine.

“For me, it’s knowing guys’ body language,” Delhomme said. “I’m a big body language guy. You learn little things about their head, the way they move and things like that. I think I know Steve (Smith)’s pretty well, and Moose (Muhsin Muhammad), things haven’t changed a whole lot. I’m just going to have to learn D.J. Hackett’s a little more and things like that.”

NOTABLE: Jeff Otah said there was not a chance he was going to holdout. When negotiations came down to the wire Otah said he talked to his agent Eric Metz and said, “Just wrap it up; let’s go. Just take what they give me.” Otah did just that, accepting a five-year contract worth $14 million overall, including $8.9 million guaranteed.

DEPTH CHART WATCH: When the Panthers drafted Dan Connor in the third round everyone wondered where the team would end up putting him. For now, it’s middle linebacker – with the third team. Connor is running with the threes behind starter Jon Beason and primary backup Adam Seward. He’s working exclusively at middle linebacker for the time being, although that could change.

POSITION BATTLES: Toniu Fonoti opened training camp working with the first team at right guard ahead of Keydrick Vincent.

ON THE RISE: OK, I know I keep harping on this kid, and no, I’m not on his payroll, but wide receiver Jason Carter just keeps making plays that make you turn your head and go, “Wow!”

On Saturday, he made a great leaping catch along the left sideline from Brett Basanez. Hey, I’m not the only one taking notice. When asked Saturday about the team’s receiving corps, Muhsin Muhammad brought up Carter, saying, “Jason carter had an awesome camp, OTAs, and coming out today he’s having a great start right now. There’s going to be some surprises here and there, like, ‘Wow, who is this guy and where did he come from?”

PLAY OF THE DAY: Perhaps Carter is studying his mentor Steve Smith, which come to think of it, is a pretty good idea for any young receiver. On Saturday morning, Smith got things going early on when he ran a post route and made a terrific leaping downfield reception between two defenders. Vintage Smith. The nice thing about Smith is very few guys practice as hard as he does, which sets a good example for the young kids.

SIGHTS AND SOUNDS: Owner Jerry Richardson, who rarely gets out of his cart while watching practice, did so on Friday to get an up-close look at the team’s rebuilt offensive line. Richardson stood just feet away as the linemen went through individual blocking drills. Perhaps he’s trying to send a message.

YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: There were some comical moments Saturday. Early on, fullback Brad Hoover made a nice grab in the flat and attempted to show off by spinning the football, similar to how Smith does. The only problem was the ball didn’t spin, but instead bounced harmlessly away drawing a roar from the nearby crowd. Hoover walked away laughing… Later in that same practice defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu jumped offsides on a hard count by Jake Delhomme. The play ended and Delhomme smiled at Kemoeatu and then promptly kicked him in the rear end as the big man walked back sheepishly to other side of the line of scrimmage.

THEY SAID IT: Coach John Fox isn’t going to say much noteworthy, so when he comes up with a funny we feel obligated to use it. On Friday Fox was asked about practicing under cloud cover with a light rain. “I think the players’ prayers were answered. I think the only thing better than this for them would have been lightning (which would have cancelled practice).”

BY THE NUMBERS: Forget what you remember about the Panthers. No 93 is no longer Mike Rucker, it’s Darwin Walker. No. 30 is no longer Mike Minter, it’s Charles Godfrey. And No. 55 is Donte Curry, not Dan Morgan. Oh, and No. 26 is not DeShaun Foster, but some guy named Decori Birmingham. Well, at least it is for a few weeks

From Darin Gantt of the Rock Hill Herald.  (Apparently, he was there Saturday while I couldn’t get press passes.)

RB Nick Goings tried to go, but was hauled off before the start of the night practice with a sprained ankle.

As expected, RB Jonathan Stewart (toe) and RT Jeff Otah (ankle) were held out of the night session. They’re going to give the rookies time to make sure they’re fully healed. Same deal with QB Jake Delhomme, who participated in some drills but didn’t do all that much.

Speaking of Stewart, the guy hasn’t practiced football since November, and missed all of the OTAs and minicamp. Wouldn’t his time be better used hanging out with the other backs and coach Jim Skipper, rather than away from the herd on an exercise bike?

WR D.J. Hackett (knee) was on the bike with the top picks. Makes you wonder if this is going to be a trend, since he missed part of the OTAs with some swelling.

I’ve always preferred watching the linemen do their one-on-ones as opposed to the backs and receivers, even when they’re not wearing pads.

Seeing LT Jordan Gross and DE Julius Peppers dance remains one of the subtle pleasures of camp. Two guys who are very good at what they do, playing chess with their feet on a daily basis