This isn’t really the end.
It’s not really the end of Panthers training camp – although they’ll leave Wofford College and head back to Charlotte, practice will still continue on the practice fields next to the stadium and the battles that have been waged – backup running back, backup quarterback, nickel corner, etc. – will continue to roar except not in front of a crowd of Panthers fans. The team will slowly get back into their daily routine as they return to their families and homes and eschew the twin beds of the Wofford dorms the Panthers have utilized for the past 25 years.
And if this is the last time, Ron Rivera wants Spartanburg to know the team appreciates what Spartanburg has done for the Panthers.
“It’s been very good for us,” said Rivera after practice. “We really do appreciate the people here at Wofford – and not just here at the college, but the people in the community. They’ve come out in droves and supported us and it’s been really cool to have them here – we’ll see what happens, but I’m really appreciative of [everything] for as long as we’ve been here.”
But whether or not the Panthers choose to hold training camp in Charlotte next year – which might not make sense considering **takes deep breath** they would be utilizing a bubble that only holds half a football field and the outdoor field of the practice facility next to the stadium aren’t much different than the fields here at Wofford, not to mention that the team would have to use a hotel and create a whole new SOP for something that would theoretically only last until the team moves to their permanent facility in Rock Hill when they already have the infrastructure and schedule and procedures in place in Spartanburg **exhales deep breath** – they’ll be saying goodbye to Wofford for at the very least a year – and maybe forever.
“It certainly was special,” said former Panthers QB Jake Delhomme, who spent seven seasons attending training camp at Wofford.”It’s a hidden gem, I’ll tell you that much, this was a hidden gem over here. These fields, I’m telling you, there’s not many NFL fields that are as good as these fields that are down here. This is different.”
Delhomme said that the Bills, who hold their camp at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, NY, remarked how nice the setup was for the Panthers at Wofford. Yes, the Bills were still in town for an animated practice session – here were some of the storylines I noticed:
- After tweaking his ankle at practice yesterday, first-round pick Brian Burns looked as if he was going to practice – he came to the fields in full pads – but ended up testing out the ankle before heading to the tent, removing his pads and heading to work with trainers on the side. Burns shook off the injury after practice and said he hoped to play on Friday in the second game of the preseason, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the team decided to hold him out. You can also expect the team to hold out Ian Thomas, who hasn’t practiced all week, and Kevon Seymour, who is still battling a hamstring injury; Tyler Larsen hasn’t practiced today either, so we may see Greg Van Roten get some run at center. Matt Paradis, Gerald McCoy and Shaq Thompson had vet days today.
- Ron Rivera said after practice that he anticipates most of the starters getting some playing time on Friday.
- While Bills fans showed up in droves, the Panthers – whether intentionally or unintentionally – smartly separated them from the Panthers fans on the hill by directing them to the end zone fences to watch practice. The Buffalo sidelines, though, were noticeably louder to start practice as the teams lined up for punt coverage drills that saw gunners try desperately to fight through blockers – usually a double-team – to get to the returner. With every rep that the Bills team would win – they won most of them, they did have two blockers to every one gunner – the volume would increase on the celebration. That steady gain was the case until Javien Elliott, who has been leading the battle for Panthers nickel cornerback, used a swim move to effortlessly split the double team and run free towards the returner, prompting the entirety of the Panthers special teams unit to chase him down the field in raucous celebration – and then they just ended the drills like it was an And 1 Mixtape.
- Team drills had multiple highlights.
- Cam Newton showed off his cadence game by drawing rookie defensive tackle into the neutral zone three consecutive times. Overall, Newton looked good today and is expected to get his first playing time of the preseason on Friday night.
- The Buffalo secondary had two great plays in a row, the first an almost-interception by corner Kevin Johnson on a floating pass over the middle that was intended for Curtis Samuel and then a diving breakup along the sidelines of a throw headed to Greg Olsen. Just as the sidelines seemed as if they might hit a fever pitch, Newton ran what looked like the exact same play as the first of the series, only this time his throw was on time to a wide-open Chris Hogan for the first down.
- Trai Turner headed to the tent late in practice and was replaced by Dennis Daley, who held up well – the rookie is certainly getting tested across multiple positions thus far and he looks as if he fits the bill.
- On the defensive side of the ball, there was a play that had a lot to like. Lots of pressure moved Josh Allen out of the pocket, the coverage held long enough to possibly allow a sack, and when Allen finally fired, the ball was tipped by Kuechly – right into the hands of wide receiver John Brown. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.
- Torrey Smith got WIDE OPEN downfield and Kyle Allen hit him for the touchdown – the past couple of days have been good ones for Smith, who seems to have a roster spot secure but a good showing during camp and over the next few weeks certainly won’t hurt him.
- Curtis Samuel did what Curtis Samuel does, speeding past Tre’Davious White for a long touchdown and then paused in a crouched position staring at the Buffalo crowd with a big smile on his face before celebrating with DJ Moore in the end zone.
- Ultimately, the most important part of training camp is complete – and the Panthers will be walking away from it without any major injuries, a far cry from where they were last year at this time.