While both Sean McDermott and Ron Rivera said the joint practices between the Panthers and the Bills this week were about learning more about themselves as a football team, for the first few minutes on the practice fields at Wofford College, it was more about reunions.
Some were expected – it wasn’t a surprise to see former Bill Kevon Seymour hugging his former teammates on the sidelines, nor was it a shock to see Captain Munnerlyn turning from familiar face to familiar face, whether it was former beat writers who covered him in Carolina to Panthers staffers to sharing a laugh with fellow locker room cut-up Cameron Artis-Payne to exchanging verbal jabs with Cam Newton – more on this later. But the reunions often fall farther down the roster than you might think.
Welcome back Cap 👊 pic.twitter.com/bNaAdrCpB9
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) August 13, 2019
Jake Delhomme, who signed autographs for the Roaring Riot before practice began, chatted with former teammate and current director of player personnel in Buffalo Dan Morgan as they watched the two teams warm up.
Efe Obada and running back Christian Wade, who is on the Bills roster as a part of the International Pathways Program just like Obada was when he joined the Panthers, laughed and joked on their way in and out of practice, with Obada making a point to speak to Wade before practice began.
As special teamer Jared Norris jogged onto the field, Heath Farwell, who spent a year as assistant special teams coach in Carolina before moving to Buffalo to helm their unit, called out “X!” to Norris, who gleefully responded “Ooooooh, shit!” and ran over to give Farwell a bearhug before standing and talking for a few minutes. In case you’re curious, the nickname ‘X’ came from Norris’ rookie year when there were two Jareds in the locker room. One got to keep the name Jared and the other, Norris, was simply called ‘X’. It stuck.
Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei, the latter of which is not the most loquacious player in the locker room, were content to simply stretch next to the man who used to be the other’s neighbor along the defensive front. On the other side of that coin, Donte Jackson and Tre’Davious White, both cornerbacks unafraid to make some noise – and more importantly, both former LSU Tigers – stood in the end zone comparing notes while Mario Addison got excited to see DE Jerry Hughes – whom he played with in Indianapolis seven years ago.
Reunited and it feels so good.
Once practice got started, here were some other storylines I noticed from a whirlwind practice that had action going on both fields:
- Ian Thomas, Tyler Larsen and Kevon Seymour, in addition to other players, sat out practice today – but the injury that will get the most attention will be first-round pick Brian Burns, who had two sacks in only ten snaps last Thursday night in Chicago, but headed to the tent midway through practice to get some attention to his ankle, had it wrapped, came back out and then headed back to have it wrapped with ice and did not return to practice. While Ron Rivera had no update after practice, it would be surprising to see the Panthers first-rounder back out there tomorrow and he may even sit out the game on Friday night – he doesn’t really have anything to prove and the Panthers will err on the side of caution.
- Something has been made of the volume that is – or isn’t – coming from the defensive side with some of the biggest talkers no longer on the team, but the biggest noise between Captain Munnerlyn and Cam Newton – who spent most of their Carolina careers on the practice field jawing at each other playfully – came before practice. The newly signed Munnerlyn doesn’t run with the Bills’ first defense, so the two didn’t get a chance to square off very often, but that didn’t change Newton’s reaction to initially seeing Munnerlyn on the field – and especially his new number. “Why you get 26 like that shit cute?!?!” Newton yelled with a smile before Munnerlyn told him if he saw him on a blitz, he planned to hit him. Unfortunately, no such blitz happened today – maybe tomorrrow.
- Once the actual drills started, the initial runs of one-on-ones began with a bang as both Christian McCaffrey and Greg Olsen were able to beat their Buffalo counterparts for easy catches and on the other side of the field, Eric Reid barely missed an interception – turnovers bouncing off of the hands of the secondary has been a recurring theme this summer. Aside from DJ Moore being able to get past Tre’Davious White, the Bills #1 corner, with a nice move off the line, the Bills defense was able to corral the Panthers offense fairly easily.
- With Ian Thomas sidelined, Chris Manhertz has shown off some improving hands over the past two practices, with a touchdown yesterday and a sprawling catch today in the middle of the end zone that drew gasps even from the Buffalo crowd behind the end zone and a yelp of joy from quarterback Kyle Allen as Manhertz – some call him Martinez – reached behind him and made an Olsen-esque snag for the score.
- In the least shocking news of the day, Curtis Samuel showed why he’s been the star of Panthers camp thus far with a long touchdown strike from Cam Newton that featured a 50-yard strike from Newton that started with Samuel cruising by Tre White and ended with #10 shrugging at the assembled Bills fans.
Curtis Samuel doing Curtis Samuel things 🙌 pic.twitter.com/qlnu8X7w6Y
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) August 13, 2019
- James Bradberry and Donte Jackson both had impressive PBUs against the Bills offense, with Bradberry finding himself one-on-one deep with John Brown and managing to knock away a deep end zone try from Josh Allen; Jackson, meanwhile, had a great practice with a good showing during one-on-ones and then a breakup in team drills which he predictably celebrated. Tre Boston continues to get the reps with the first team at free safety and if the secondary can start hauling these balls in instead of simply knocking them to the ground, Thieves Ave may be returning. Right now, it’s more like PBU Parkway.
- While the two minute drill started – multiple times – with Cam Newton moving the Panthers down the field easily, it finished poorly. The first set of reps saw the Bills stop the Panthers on five of six plays from inside the ten, and the lone touchdown may have been a sack during live play. The next session brought back shades of what Newton has struggled with a couple of times in camp – goalline interceptions – as he tried to fit a ball in to Christian McCaffrey that was tipped and then picked off by Ryan Lewis. Afterwards, Cam and McCaffrey discussed both footwork and route combinations – this is what practice is for.
- The Bills interior pass rush was impressive, getting good push against the Panthers offensive line – because there’s no contact, there were no sacks, but there were multiple plays that likely would have been “sacks”.
- Torrey Smith, who has been quiet this camp thus far, had a nice grab on a deep ball and had a nice practice, including a leaping grab over the middle from Cam Newton. He’s getting limited reps with the first team currently, but they’re coming along slowly.
- Oh! And Tahoe, Ron Rivera’s dog was there. He was a very good boy – I’ve pet that dog.
Dog Days of Training Camp pic.twitter.com/ipN73vyR1r
— Kevin Ketchie (@kevinketchie) August 13, 2019