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King keeps mind on Virginia Tech tragedy

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Jeff King’s second season with the Carolina Panthers is off to a good start. He’s been working with the starters at tight end, and catching the ball more as part of the team’s new-look offense.

But King still has close ties to his alma mater, Virginia Tech. He wore a Hokies T-shirt to team meetings Sunday, and is still coming to grips with the death of 32 students there by a student gunman in April.

By MIKE CRANSTON
AP Sports Writer


SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) – Jeff King’s second season with the Carolina Panthers is off to a good start. He’s been working with the starters at tight end, and catching the ball more as part of the team’s new-look offense.

But King still has close ties to his alma mater, Virginia Tech. He wore a Hokies T-shirt to team meetings Sunday, and is still coming to grips with the death of 32 students there by a student gunman in April.

“It’s had a big impact. I spent five years there. I knew a lot of people there,” King said. “I had teammates that were there so anything that I can ever do to help Virginia Tech, I’m definitely going to do that. I have a big place in my heart for Virginia Tech and Blacksburg.”

King grew up about 20 minutes away from the campus in Pulaski, Va. And while he didn’t know any of the victims, the incident has hit him hard.

“You don’t think in a million years that that would ever happen there,” King said. “You just got to go on, pick up the pieces, and cherish every moment that you have because you never know.”

King, the Panthers’ fifth-round pick last year, is the leading candidate to replace the retired Kris Mangum. So far he’s getting the first-team reps ahead of veteran Michael Gaines.

“I’m extremely excited. Anytime you’ve got an opportunity to work with the No. 1 offense it’s a great feeling,” King said. “But at the same time you’ve got to realize you’ve got to get better every day as well.”


ONE-A-DAY: Sunday marked the first day the Panthers practiced only once, a rarity under coach John Fox in the past.

Fox, who had favored the traditional two-a-day practices in his first five years on the job, changed the schedule for this camp. The Panthers will have more night practices when they work out twice, and will enjoy several days of only a single afternoon workout.

“I’ve gotten good feedback thus far,” Fox said. “They’re still kind of learning the routine, but from what they’ve learned, they like.”

The Sunday workout did feature the first skirmish in camp. Upset that linebacker Adam Seward pushed him to the turf at the end of a drill, running back DeShaun Foster got up and shoved Seward to the ground. The two then wrestled for several seconds before they were separated by several players, including defensive tackle Kris Jenkins.

“Today’s going to be fun!” Jenkins yelled a few minutes later as he came to the sideline for water.


SCREEN PASSES: A noticeable wrinkle to new offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson’s system is the large number of screen passes, something Carolina hardly ever did under Dan Henning.

Tackle Jordan Gross is a fan of the short passes in the flat to running backs DeShaun Foster and DeAngelo Williams.

“That’s definitely something that’s different this year. Our screen game, I think, is going to be a lot bigger and that’s going to be big help in games,” Gross said. “If defenses are expecting that a little more they may play the run and the pass a little differently.

That’s something (Davidson) is definitely excited about and it’s nice. I’ve never done it since I’ve been here so it’ll be exciting to see how it goes.”


QUICK HITS: Linebacker Dan Morgan, recovering from multiple concussions, was held out of contact drills for a second straight day. Defensive end Mike Rucker, working back from knee surgery, took part in more of practice than he did Saturday. … Players have gotten a big break with the weather. While it was humid, it was overcast and uncharacteristically comfortable for a second consecutive day. … Rookie Ryne Robinson was the No. 1 punt returner in practice Sunday. Chris Horn also returned some punts.


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