Life as an offensive lineman can be hard – not only are you the biggest guys on the field, but your job is usually misunderstood, when mistakes happen on the offense it’s usually your fault – even if it isn’t – and when things go right, the skinny guys behind you take all the credit.
That goes double when you’re an offensive linemen trying to fight your way onto a team.
When established veterans like Daryl Williams and Matt Paradis have the day off and get to attend a humid, sunny practice in shorts and bucket hats instead of pads and helmets, that’s when you get a chance to impress the coaches – or disappoint them.
Imagine you’re undrafted free agent rookie Rishard Cook – you work out for the Panthers late Wednesday morning and sign a deal to attend camp, so you strap on your uniform (#68), except you’re not on the rosters (neither the online roster on the team website or the roster given to media members who report on the sessions) and within minutes of your first practice beginning, you’re lining up in a drill and attempting to block other offensive linemen who act as pass rushers.
You raise out of your stance and get a hand on Greg Little, who’s ‘rushing the passer’ in this instance. Offensive line guru with a penchant for angry exhortations John Matsko is behind you and he’s unhappy with your rep.
“That one hand ain’t gonna cut it.”
So you go again – and this time, unfortunately, you get one hand on your man again instead of the two hand punch Matsko requires.The volume of his voice raises sharply.
“One hand again! I told you to use two hands – if I wanted you to use one hand, I would have said it! Now don’t make me tell you a third time!”
To emphasize the point, Williams puts two hands into your chest and shows you the block you’re supposed to be executing. It probably hurts – both physically and emotionally. You go again – and this time you get two hands on your man.
Now it’s time to stretch – practice hasn’t even started yet.
Once it did get started, here were some more storylines from Panthers practice that I noticed:
- A lot of vet days today, with only one that should peak your interest: Greg Olsen, Daryl Williams, Matt Paradis, Christian McCaffrey and Kawann Short took vet or ‘maintenance’ days today and after practice, Ron Rivera said Luke Kuechly – who also watched practice in a bucket hat – also was scheduled to have the day off; however, after leaving practice early with an undisclosed injury Wednesday, everyday that Kuechly doesn’t practice will add more question marks to whether he’s being held out for caution or with a true injury.
- Cam Newton was also held out today, but he did do some simulated throwing motions with coaches during the middle of practice. After this, he wore a scary wrap around his shoulder that people on Twitter were not happy about – but he eventually took that off and said after practice that listening to his body and learning when to slow down is going to help him stay healthy this season, so in that sentiment, Panthers fans should probably be happy that he took the day off.
- Rashaan Gaulden, who unceremoniously and unofficially lost the safety job he may not have even been competing for in the first place when the Panthers signed Tre Boston last night, also did not practice after he woke up with some back stiffness. Gaulden, who took reps at the ‘big nickel’ position yesterday, may still have a big role in this defense if he can lock down that spot.
- Early in rushing drills, Eric Reid met Jordan Scarlett at the line and physically put him down, drawing accolades from coaches and other defensive players – even after taking that big hit, it was a good day for Scarlett as he took the majority of first-team reps (as much of the first team that was out there, anyway), he looked sharp and decisive while cutting. His only mistake was early in team drills as he dropped a Kyle Allen (also taking first-team reps) laser on an angle route; the rookie made up for that by catching multiple other passes throughout the session.
- Curtis Samuel update: Still very good – although he had his first drop of camp that I can remember after running an absolutely gorgeous route during 1-on-1s.
- Allen continued his strong camp – the competition for backup QB appears to be a two-man race between Allen and Grier with Heinicke being the odd man out – with a beautiful back shoulder strike to Terry Godwin during 1-on-1s that turned Godwin around at just the right moment with corner Javien Elliott hanging all over him. One of my favorite throws of camp, non-Newton category.
- Grier held serve with some nice tosses of his own, including hitting tight end Temarrick Hemingway in the open spot near the sidelines in a Cover 2, just over the reach of the linebackers and behind the corners – but before the safeties can get out to defend the pass – and Hemingway hauled it in as he ran out of bounds. A pretty play and impossible to defend.
- Grier also hit DeAndrew White with a deep ball – the rookie’s specialty, it seems like – as White was able to get a step on Kevon Seymour, who headed to the tent to have trainers take a look at him after the rep and sat out the rest of the practice with ice on either his quad or hamstring.
- Brian Burns update: Still looking as advertised – he was in the backfield multiple times, including blowing by second-round pick Greg Little on one rep.
- DJ Moore, who has lagged behind Samuel in terms of camp buzz, made a few impressive leaping catches near the sideline as he was able to get his feet down in bounds while having corners, including Donte Jackson, draped all over him.