|Change surrounds Carolina Panthers during organized team activities|
|From construction to QB status, much to digest|
|Published Friday, May 24, 2019 11:54 am|
|PHOTO | CURTIS WILSON|
|The maturation of younger players like receiver D.J. Moore, left, will go a long way toward determining the Carolina Panthers' 2019 season.|
There’s a lot going on at the Panthers’ organized team activities.
For instance, there’s laying of sod at the new practice field bubble facility. And the always-anticipated shirt head coach Ron Rivera wears.
“I think that was the highlight of the day was watching that guy drive that little truck and put sod down 18 inches at a time was mesmerizing. That was fascinating,” tight end Greg Olsen said Wednesday.
Construction of the bubble began is part of Panthers owner David Tepper’s pledge to upgrade the team’s practice facilities. Carolina is one of the few NFL teams without an indoor practice facility and sometimes resorted to holding workouts at the Charlotte Convention Center when weather turned bad.
“It’s going to be nice, I can’t wait,” Olsen said. “We seem to get rain every Friday, so we’re hoping that now we can actually practice in normal conditions.”
Other things of recognition at OTAs were more player-related such as the recovery of players returning from injury reserve after several of the Panthers’ setbacks in the 2018 season, largely including the quarterback situation.
Quarterback Cam Newton’s shoulder issues seem to be nearing the end – at least that’s the hope. After surgery to correct a partially torn rotator cuff in 2017, Newton and the Panthers started last season 6-2 before losing seven straight to finish 7-9. There were other factors, but one of the most obvious was Newton’s shoulder becoming increasingly weak the second half of the season. Arthroscopic surgery to repair the damage was performed in January and the Panthers hope to have him ready for training camp.
“They’ll just continue to go through the process, there is no time frame,” Rivera said. “I’m optimistic, I think he’s done a great job. Everything I’ve seen tells me that he’s doing a great job and we’ll just continue to go forward with it until we’re told what he can and can’t do.”
With three other quarterbacks working behind Newton for the backup job, there are some upsides to the situation.
“I think the biggest plus for him more than anything else is we’ve got three young guys that we think can help us and we’re giving them every opportunity,” said Rivera. “We’re rolling guys through; each guy is playing with a different group every day and I think that helps them and helps the guys around them.”
The contenders are Taylor Heinecke, Newton’s backup most of last season; Kyle Allen, who stepped up at the end of the 2018 season and rookie Will Grier, the first quarterback drafted by the Panthers since acquiring Newton in 2011.
Other players coming back from injury include Curtis Samuel, who along with fellow wide receivers like D.J. Moore, Jarius Wright and Christian McCaffrey, is showing growth.
“I’m very excited,” Rivera said. “I think the thing that’s really cool is that I just anticipate a nice big step this year I think, for everybody in the system.”
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