CHARLOTTE, N.C. - NBC Charlotte sports reporters Kelsey Riggs and Rob Hughes take us through a few of the top storylines from the start of the Panthers' mandatory minicamp.
Cam Newton does not throw
Cam Newton went through the motions on Tuesday at mandatory minicamp, and did not throw.
Last Monday Ron Rivera said he anticipated Cam Newton to throw this week. When Newton underwent surgery in March, the initial timetable for his return suggested he’d be ready to throw at the start of training camp in late July.
To be clear, there appears to be no setback with Newton. The Panthers maintain his rehab program is still on schedule. Pro bowl tight end Greg Olsen is not losing any sleep over Newton’s progression.
“He’ll be fine,” Olsen said. “He’s done this before. He knows what he’s doing. We have lot of other things that we need to piece together. He’ll be fine. He’s a big boy.”
Christian McCaffrey still absent
Panthers first-round pick Christian McCaffrey still can’t participate in team activities.
A quirky NFL rule limits players whose schools operate on quarter systems. Since Stanford is one of those schools, McCaffrey could only participate in rookie minicamp until final exams are over.
The day exams finish is when McCaffrey is allowed to travel back to Charlotte. He’s expected to participate Thursday, the final day of the three-day minicamp.
“Hopefully we’ll get that opportunity when he does arrive to see exactly where he fits for us,” Rivera said. “I’ve been very excited about the communication that he’s had with Coach [Jim] Skipper as they continue to install. The hard part is if he can just do that, but Coach Skipper says he’s been great, very attentive, so we look forward to seeing him on Thursday.”
“From what I’ve heard, and what I’ve experienced from meeting him and talking to him, I think he’ll be fine,” Olsen said. “I don’t think the work and the learning will be too challenging for him. I think the biggest thing for him will be to come and kind of get acclimated to things and be a part of the team.”
Julius Peppers present in front of media
For the first time since re-joining the Panthers as a free agent in March, Julius Peppers practiced in front of the media.
The 37-year old defensive end has not been made available to speak since returning to Charlotte. He’s been present at the team facilities for workouts and meetings, but not at the same time as the media.
Tuesday he participated in drills for the first time in front of cameras.
“It’s good having him out here,” Rivera said. “Once we got to the point, where he had some soreness, we just felt like what we’d do, we’d let the trainers handle it. Let them take care of it, keep him conditioned, keep him working, and getting better in terms of his skillsets. The nice thing that he’s done – he’s been in all the meetings. Having him out on the practice field is a culmination of what we’ve gone through with the OTAs.”
Weighing in on Kelvin Benjamin
Kelvin Benjamin ran well during drills Tuesday, and showed no signs of weight issues that have plagued him this offseason and throughout his career.
After the draft Ron Rivera admitted that he was concerned by wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin’s weight. At the time Rivera called him “a little heavy.”
Benjamin apparently showed up to offseason workouts overweight and out of shape. Since then, Rivera says Benjamin has done everything asked of him, and the team picked up his fifth-year option.
“Kelvin looks solid,” Rivera said. “He really does. You see him continue to grow. He’s still a young player. We forget that. We forget that last year, he was coming off an ACL, and we expect so much of him.”
Michael Oher back in Charlotte, not at minicamp
Michael Oher may be back in Charlotte, but he was not present at minicamp Tuesday.
Oher has been in concussion protocol since the end of September. According to the Panthers, he flew back to town to visit doctors.
“Dave made a statement the other day that we put out,” Rivera said. “So that’s pretty much what we’re going to go with. That’s something that we’re keeping in-house right now.”
Hard to Trump that for Boulware
It’s been a busy start to the week for rookie linebacker Ben Boulware.
On Monday he spent the day at the White House with his former Clemson teammates. The Tigers got the invite for beating Alabama in the national championship in January.
President Donald Trump singled out Boulware during his congratulatory speech.
“Nobody can make plays like defensive MVP Ben Boulware.”
“I never really expected to go to the White House, let alone be called out on stage,” Boulware said. “It was a really cool moment. Something that I’ll never forget.”
A cool moment, but not as cool as winning the national championship.
“I think it [the championship] trumps that a little bit. No pun intended.”
Greg Olsen grants a wish
17-year old Foster Hale visited Panthers’ minicamp Tuesday. A rising senior at Piedmont High School, Hale is battling leukemia.
Hale spent the practice tailing tight end Greg Olsen, and even caught a couple passes.
Olsen joked that Hale was targeted twice, and caught both passes. He said it was a good percentage, but they needed to up the targets.
“We only worry about what we can control, right?” Olsen said. “That’s not what I told him over there. I told them if they don’t throw you the ball you should start cussing people out. But in front of the cameras, you can only control what you can control. That’s day one install of the NFL.”