Panthers begin camp

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Even the rain couldn’t dampen the sprits of a few thousand Panther fans on Saturday morning. Perhaps the rain in Spartanburg represented a cleansing from all of the NFL’s recent off-the-field turmoil; After all, it is a new season and a new set of expectations for the Carolina Panthers.

Even the rain couldn’t dampen the sprits of a few thousand Panther fans on Saturday morning. Perhaps the rain in Spartanburg represented a cleansing from all of the NFL’s recent off-the-field turmoil; After all, it is a new season and a new set of expectations for the Carolina Panthers.

“It’s always exciting,” Panthers Head Coach John Fox said of the first practice of the new season. “I look forward to every season starting, and it starts with the first day of training camp really, because it’s real football because you are in pads. You get excited but you try to stay even keel, because it’s a long process.”

It was a welcomed change from years gone by at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., where the heat can make it seem over 100 degrees Fahrenheit on some days.

“I think from a standpoint of how much they sweated, I thought it was pretty good,” Coach Fox said of the weather. “But for the ball handlers, quarterbacks, receivers and even our holder and kicker, it made it difficult.”

The weather didn’t seem to affect Panther running backs DeShaun Foster or DeAngelo Williams, who both showed excellent footwork and balance on several 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. Wide receiver Steve Smith didn’t have any trouble catching the ball in traffic and swerving around defenders as he normally does on Sundays.

However, quarterback Jake Delhomme and safety Nate Salley might want to use the wet weather as an excuse to not lose their jobs.

Since the minute the Panthers signed former Houston Texan and number one overall pick David Carr to a multi-year deal, the public perception has been that it’s just a matter of time before Carr takes the reigns of the offense from Delhomme. Even though Coach Fox tried to smooth-over the signing of Carr and denied that there was a competition for the starting quarterback position, fans and national media alike have still continued the speculation that Carr would be the starter at some point during the season. Saturday morning’s practice may fuel those speculative fires even further, as Delhomme looked noticeably less accurate and poised than Carr, who made tight-spiraled throws land precisely where he’d aimed them and looked like a natural in offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson’s new offense.

Safety Nate Salley, a second-year player out of Ohio State, often was a few steps too slow in coverage during drills; something he could blame on poor footing on a wet field. His only saving grace at this point is that there isn’t much else behind him pushing for his spot. Salley, who fans have largely pointed to as the weak link in the defense, will have to show that he’s capable of at least being in the correct position to make plays in order to quell the fans’ urging that he be replaced.

The one down note of camp was the absence of first round pick Jon Beason, a linebacker out of the University of Miami, who still had not agreed to contract terms with the team. “I’m not in to talking about guys who aren’t here,” said Coach Fox when asked if he was disappointed in Beason’s absence. Still, even with this year’s top pick holding-out, there was a sense of excitement on the practice field and amongst the fans on Saturday.

“We’ve had a good offseason,” Fox said. “Guys have come back with a vengeance. Right now, our attitude is good. It’s not one practice.”

“There will be a lot of practices to get us where we want to go.”


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