Carolina Panthers: Thomas Davis

BALTIMORE -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Carolina Panthers' 38-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens:
  • Smith
    There was not a lot of reaction from the Panthers to former Carolina wide receiver Steve Smith saying he's "35 years old and I ran around those boys like they were schoolyard kids." As cornerback Josh Norman and safety Charles Godfrey said, "Steve is going to be Steve."
  • More Norman on Smith, who as he had been all week remained a topic of conversation after catching seven passes for 139 yards and two touchdowns: "I'm tired of hearing about it. He did what he did and we did what we did."
  • Quarterback Cam Newton admitted he has to do a better job of getting rid of the ball instead of taking a sack like the one that took Carolina out of field goal range on its first drive. He also tried to take a positive approach, saying, "We're OK. We'll be OK." It kind of sounded like wishful thinking.
  • Fullback/tight end Richie Brockel walked to the bus with a walking boot on his right foot. "We'll know more tomorrow," he said.
  • Linebacker Thomas Davis (hamstring) said he was a few yards away on a running drill from showing the burst trainers were looking for to allow him to play. He vowed to be back next week for Chicago.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Five days ago, it didn't look like the Carolina Panthers would have linebacker Thomas Davis or running back Jonathan Stewart available for Sunday's game at Baltimore.

Now they could have both.

Stewart
Davis
Though Stewart remains a long shot with a sprained knee suffered in the second half of Sunday night's 37-19 loss against Pittsburgh, he was on the field in shoulder pads and a helmet on Friday.

Davis (hamstring) looked a lot closer to playing after practicing for the second straight day.

Coach Ron Rivera said he "feels pretty good" about Davis' chances of playing in the 1 p.m. game. He wasn't so optimistic about Stewart, saying he wasn't where he needed to be as a running back.

Though Stewart's status is up in the air, leading rusher DeAngelo Williams practiced for the third straight day after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury.

Williams and Darrin Reaves, an undrafted rookie who was signed off the practice squad on Saturday, will handle the bulk of the load. Rivera said fullback/tight end Richie Brockel will have a bigger role with Mike Tolbert (fractured leg) on short-term injured reserve.

The team also could opt to sign Tauren Poole off the practice squad.

Williams said on Thursday that he was up to carrying the bulk of the carries even though he hasn't had more than 17 in a game since the third week of last season. He had 23 for 120 yards against the New York Giants that day.

The running game needs that kind of a boost after totaling 42 yards on a franchise-low 10 carries against Pittsburgh.

"I'm always a firm believer that a 50 percent DeAngelo is better than no DeAngelo at all," Tolbert said. "Having him at 100 percent is going to be a big benefit for us.

"DeAngelo is more than capable of carrying the load."

Meanwhile, wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who missed the Pittsburgh game with a hamstring injury, was a full participant in practice for the third straight day. He is listed as probably.

But Rivera said the Panthers have to find a way to keep undrafted rookie Philly Brown on the field after he caught seven passes for 66 yards against Pittsburgh.

Speed-wise, Rivera said Brown remains Carolina's most dynamic receiver.

"He's' going to continue to be blended in," Rivera said. "It's good to have the veteran guys we have back on the field. At the same time, we also have to understand there is an explosiveness to Philly's ability. We can't miss that."
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Will Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis pick up Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith off the ground if -- and it's still a big "if" that Davis will play because of a hamstring injury -- he tackles his former teammate on Sunday?

"No!" Davis said emphatically on Thursday. "I'll talk to him after the game."

Davis
Smith
And no, it wasn't Davis who picked up former Carolina wide receiver Brandon LaFell after tackling him in a preseason game against New England. That was middle linebacker Luke Kuechly.

Will Kuechly do the same if he tackles Smith?

"Nah!" he said. "That was preseason."

Kuechly almost assuredly will get a shot at Smith. He leads the team in tackles with 32 and is used a lot in pass coverage while the front four pressures the quarterback.

Davis hopes to get a shot at Carolina's all-time leading receiver, who was released in March. But the hamstring he pulled chasing Pittsburgh's LeGarrette Blount during a 50-yard run in Sunday night's 37-19 loss remains an issue.

The good news is Davis was on the field Thursday, a day earlier than coach Ron Rivera anticipated. But as the Panthers have seen with hamstring injuries the past two weeks with running back DeAngelo Williams, they aren't easily overcome.

"Definitely a good sign, a positive sign," Davis said of Thursday's limited participation. "But at the end of the day it's all about being out there on Sunday. That's what I'm working for."

Nobody arguably has worked harder to overcome injuries than Davis. In 2012, he became the first player in NFL history to return from ACL surgery on the same knee three times.

And nobody arguably wants to face Smith more than Davis, who remains close to the 35-year-old receiver.

"It's definitely going to be weird lining up against him," Davis said. "I'm looking forward to trying to get there. That's my main goal."

If Davis plays, he won't take it easy on Smith if the opportunity presents itself.

"I'm going to do my job," Davis said. "Steve fully understands that. I expect him to do his job when he gets an opportunity at me."

Smith said during a Wednesday conference call with reporters in Charlotte that he and Davis often talk and exchange jokes via text messages. He said their wives recently had dinner together.

"We have a good relationship," Davis said. "We talk trash a lot. When he was here, we talked a lot of trash. Ain't nothing changed now that he's gone."

Except for one thing.

Davis would pick Smith up if he knocked him down in practice. He won't do that Sunday.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The return of outside linebacker Thomas Davis to practice Thursday was a good sign for a Carolina Panthers defense reeling from Sunday night's 37-19 loss to Pittsburgh.

Coach Ron Rivera said earlier in the week that Davis, who injured his hip late against Pittsburgh, would not practice Wednesday and Thursday.

Davis
He said Davis would be re-evaluated Friday, adding the absence from practice wasn't a good sign the 10th-year player out of Georgia would be ready for Sunday's game at Baltimore.

There still are no guarantees Davis will play, but to be on the field in full pads a day earlier than expected was a positive step.

Rivera said Wednesday Davis was as close as the Panthers had in terms of an emotional leader to replace wide receiver Steve Smith, who signed with Baltimore after being cut by Carolina in March.

Davis is also second on the team in tackles with 30, two behind Luke Kuechly.

"A guy that is high spirited ... that's who Thomas Davis is," Rivera said. "He's an emotional leader for us. That's the kind of guy everybody does need. You need to have a guy that's an emotional leader, a guy to get everybody rallied around and get everybody going.

"That's big."

Meanwhile, running back DeAngelo Williams continued to look good after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury. Williams, Darrin Reaves and Tauren Poole were the only healthy running backs practicing.

Poole was signed to the practice squad Thursday. He replaced Lache Seastrunk, who was released.

Jonathan Stewart (knee sprain) and Fozzy Whittaker (quad) did not practice and are unlikely to play.

Williams back; Davis, Stewart doubtful

September, 24, 2014
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams practiced in full Wednesday after missing the last two games with a hamstring injury.

Coach Ron Rivera said Williams looked good despite a heavy rain throughout much of the two-hour workout. He remained optimistic the team's all-time leading rusher would be ready for Sunday's game at the Baltimore Ravens.

Not on the field, as expected, were outside linebacker Thomas Davis and running back Jonathan Stewart. Davis aggravated a hip injury late in Sunday's 37-19 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Stewart suffered a severely sprained knee.

Rivera said both will be re-evaluated Friday but admitted not practicing Wednesday or Thursday "is not a good sign." He said some kind of combination with Chase Blackburn and A.J. Klein would start if Davis can't go.

Also back was wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, who missed Sunday's game with a hamstring injury.

Having Williams back was critical for the Panthers (2-1), who rushed a franchise-low 10 times for 42 yards against the Steelers and will be without fullback/running back Mike Tolbert (fractured leg).

Stewart said he was "week to week," but would not elaborate.

Williams and undrafted rookie Darrin Reaves, signed from the practice squad Saturday, took most of the snaps in practice.

"Don't sound so demoralizing," quarterback Cam Newton said when a reporter ran down the running back injuries. "Golly. We've got guys looking forward to this opportunity. I'm excited. You're not going to get this woe with me attitude, like, 'Oh, God, this person is hurt. That person is hurt. ...'

"That's a losing attitude and we're trying to flush that down the system. Our [morale] is high."

Eleven Panthers held out of practice

September, 17, 2014
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Defensive end Greg Hardy was among 11 players who did not practice for the Carolina Panthers on Wednesday.

Hardy's absence was not injury related -- it was revealed later that he was placed on the NFL's commissioner's exempt list until his domestic violence case is resolved.

The other players who didn't practice Wednesday were left tackle Byron Bell (toe), wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (knee), wide receiver Philly Brown (ankle), right tackle Nate Chandler (toe), linebacker Thomas Davis (hip), defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (back), fullback Mike Tolbert (chest), running back Fozzy Whittaker (thigh), running back DeAngelo Williams (thigh) and tackle Garry Williams (thigh).

Also, tight end Greg Olsen (calf) and wide receiver Jason Avant (thigh) were limited.

That's six starters and a couple of other regulars -- not including Hardy.

The only two healthy running backs were Jonathan Stewart and Darrin Reaves, who is on the practice squad.

Coach Ron Rivera said Bell, Benjamin, Brown, Chandler, Thomas, Edwards, Tolbert, DeAngelo Williams and Garry Williams will be back Thursday on either a full or limited basis as the Panthers prepare for Sunday night's prime-time game against Pittsburgh.

Rivera said he hasn't discussed who will start in place of Hardy moving forward. Wes Horton started Sunday's 24-7 victory over Detroit and played mostly on first and second down in run situations.

Mario Addison came in on passing situations and had 2.5 sacks, but Rivera said Addison is more of a "situational player." Second-round pick Kony Ealy also could work into the mix.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott took a wait-until-after-the-season approach on Monday when asked if his current unit is better than the one that finished last season second in the league.

I'm not as patient.

It is better.

To be fair, how much better -- and maybe for how long -- depends on the future of defensive end Greg Hardy. Last season's sack leader was placed on the inactive list before Sunday's 24-7 victory over Detroit as the team re-evaluated his domestic violence case.

[+] EnlargeMario Addison
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsThe Panthers have four more sacks (7) now than they had after two games last season, and that unit led the league with 60.
Hardy played a huge role in the defense's overall success a year ago because of his ability to play end, tackle and drop into coverage. It took two players to replace what he does on Sunday.

At the same time, Carolina's ability to shut down Detroit's high-powered offense without Hardy is evidence that this unit is better because of depth, experience and leadership.

It's definitely better than last year's defense two games into the season, a big reason Carolina is 2-0 instead of 0-2 as it started 2013. Just look at the numbers as the Panthers head into Sunday night's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

They rank fifth in the NFL in total defense (293.5 ypg.) and second in scoring defense (10.4 ppg.). A year ago after two games, they were 26th (403 ypg.) and 18th (18 ppg.).

You can go down the line -- rush defense, pass defense, sacks and turnovers -- and Carolina is significantly better now.

The secondary that was questioned throughout the offseason is a primary reason. Two weeks into last season the Panthers were in a state of disarray with starting free safety Charles Godfrey suffering a season-ending Achilles injury and the left cornerback position unsettled.

This year's group, despite the loss of safety Mike Mitchell to Pittsburgh and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn to Minnesota, is a solid mix of veterans and young players who have quickly come together as a cohesive group.

They already have three interceptions compared to one the first two games last season. Left cornerback Antoine Cason has an interception and a forced fumble.

"I really thought the secondary put on one of their better games out there,'' McDermott said.

Experience up front also has helped. Tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short were rookies a year ago. Chase Blackburn and A.J. Klein, the anchors at weakside linebacker, were basically special team contributors until Carolina traded Jon Beason to the New York Giants before the third game.

And as hard as it might be to believe, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is better -- particularly in terms of pass defense and forcing turnovers.

He preserved the Tampa win with a late forced fumble. His knockdown of a pass 25 yards down field against Detroit is one only a handful of middle linebackers could make.

McDermott doesn't have to wait to say Kuechly is better now than last season.

"I would say so,'' he said.

Statistically, it's hard argue the entire defense isn't better. The Panthers are allowing 4.6 fewer points and 7.7 fewer yards than last year's team.

They have four more sacks (7) now than they had after two games last season, and that unit led the league with 60. They have twice as many forced turnovers (6) from a team that finished tied for sixth with 30.

"I think we are headed in that direction," coach Ron Rivera said when asked if this defense was better. "We have a lot of guys that have been in the system for [a few] seasons now. You are starting to see where guys don't have to make checks or calls. They just know what their assignments are.

"We can be better, and we've still got a long ways to go."

On that McDermott agreed.

And the ultimate goal, as linebacker Thomas Davis said, isn't to be better than last season's defense. It's to be the best defense in the NFL.

Panthers show depth in replacing Hardy

September, 15, 2014
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Matthew Stafford and Wes HortonAP Photo/Mike McCarnWes Horton helped the Panthers keep pressure on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Replacing defensive end Greg Hardy wasn't as easy as it looked for the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

It took two players.

You could argue three.

Wes Horton played first and second down for much of the 24-7 victory over the Detroit Lions. He occasionally gave way to second-round draft pick Kony Ealy. He was the run-stopper, doing the dirty work that doesn't draw headlines.

Mario Addison came in on third down and obvious passing situations. He got the headlines with 2.5 sacks.

Hardy can stop the run and get the headline sacks. He had a team-best 15 sacks a year ago to earn his first Pro Bowl berth. He also can play tackle and drop back into pass coverage.

[+] EnlargeMario Addison
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsMario Addison (97) notched 2.5 sacks of Stafford.
But Hardy didn't play on Sunday. The Panthers deactivated him under intense public scrutiny surrounding his July 15 conviction for assaulting and threatening his ex-girlfriend.

Hardy is arguably the team's most valuable defensive player outside of linebacker Luke Kuechly, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Hardy played 51 of 56 snaps in the opener at Tampa Bay, a 20-14 victory. Addison was in for 10 snaps and Horton 13.

"Greg is a high-energy guy," outside linebacker Thomas Davis said after the victory over Detroit. "He brings an attitude to our team, and we definitely missed him out there."

Coach Ron Rivera said Hardy will return and play again this season. He didn't say whether it would be Sunday night against Pittsburgh or the following week at Baltimore, but he made it clear Hardy likely would play before his Nov. 17 appeal in front of a jury.

Fortunately for the Panthers, they have the numbers to replace him. And after two more games, they'll have even more depth with Frank Alexander returning from a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse program. Rivera said Alexander was the most valuable player in training camp.

What Sunday showed was the Panthers not only have one of the best fronts in the NFL, they have one of the deepest.

"Absolutely," Horton said. "It doesn't matter who gets the start. Everyone is trained at a high level."

Against Detroit, they all played at a high level. Let me tell you about the two main characters.

Horton (6-foot-5, 265) signed with Carolina as an undrafted rookie out of the University of Southern California last season. He had two sacks and eight tackles in 2013.

He wears 96. He has a tightly trimmed chinstrap beard. His dad, Mike Horton, was Gemini on "American Gladiators." Wes had two sacks last season, both against Tampa Bay.

Addison is a fourth-year player from Troy, originally signed by the Chicago Bears as an undrafted free agent in 2011. After bouncing between Indianapolis and Washington, he finally settled in at Carolina near the end of the 2012 season.

He had 2.5 sacks in a reserve role last season. The Panthers gave him a two-year extension in June. During a trip to Puerto Rico to celebrate he fell off a jet ski and thought he was going to drown.

"I've never been so scared in my life," he said during training camp. "I don't know how to swim, so without the life vest I would have died."

Addison wears No. 97. He also has a beard, but it is long and scruffy. He is considered undersized at 6-2 and 255 pounds. But what he lacks in size he makes up for in speed.

"He's one of the fastest guys I've ever seen at practice," center Ryan Kalil said. "The guy runs around like he's a linebacker."

The speed came in handy late against Detroit when the Lions had to pass. Their tackles couldn't match Addison's first step coming off the edge.

Rivera calls him a "situational football player for us."

"He is speed off the edge and a forceful special teams guy," he said. "Guys understand their roles, and they do their roles the best that they can. That was a great example for us."

It also was a reminder of how much it takes to replace Hardy.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Josh McCown didn't do much on the football field during two seasons as a backup quarterback with the Carolina Panthers, but he apparently made an impression on the basketball court at Charlotte's Dowd YMCA.

Carolina defensive end Charles Johnson and linebacker Thomas Davis heaped so much praise on McCown's game that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' starting quarterback might feel obligated to put them on his Christmas list.

"He's athletic, man," Johnson said as he looked ahead to Sunday's opener in Tampa. "He can play. He can shoot, and he plays with a couple of NBA guys, so he's more athletic than people know.

[+] EnlargeTampa Bay Buccaneers, Josh McCown
Stephen B. Morton/AP ImagesTwo Panthers rave about former teammate's Josh McCown's basketball abilities. On Sunday, they aim to slow down the Bucs QB on the football field.
"I think he could play professionally."

And how did Johnson stack up to McCown on the court?

"I'm just a role player," Johnson said with a laugh. "That's all I do. I'm a big man."

Johnson is big (6-foot-2, 285 pounds), but he's more than a role player for the Carolina defense. Third on the team's all-time sack list with 54, he is a big reason the Panthers ranked second in the league in total defense last season.

And you can bet that McCown, who completed 1 of 6 pass attempts for 2 yards during the 2008 and 2009 seasons at Carolina, will be aware of where Johnson is.

McCown's time on the basketball court with Johnson is one of the reasons.

"That has served well as a scouting reminder that this guy is athletic," McCown said. "I've seen Charles on the basketball court, and the guy can move and the guy can play. Whether I go to scramble or I am in the pocket or wherever, knowing an athlete like Charles is on the other side of the ball, you know where he's at all times."

Johnson, who is nursing a sore hamstring, is coy about how effective he will be. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the former Georgia star could have played in last Thursday's exhibition finale at Pittsburgh, but Johnson wasn't so sure.

"It would have been tough," he said.

Johnson went through every segment of Wednesday's practice in full pads, which was a good sign for the Panthers.

"Charles had a very good day," Rivera said.

Johnson
That can't be good news for McCown. Johnson had two sacks during the Panthers' 31-13 victory at Tampa last season. With Johnson sidelined with a minor knee injury the second time the teams met, the Panthers had five sacks.

"The front seven in general is exceptional, probably the best or one of the best in the league," said McCown, who signed as a free agent from Chicago to stabilize the Bucs' quarterback situation. "They all play hard and are athletic. But Charles, he's a different kind of athlete on the end."

McCown apparently is a different kind of athlete on the basketball court, at least for an NFL quarterback.

"He might be one of the best basketball players that's not in the NBA that I've ever played with," Davis said. "He's obviously got the jump shot. I've also seen Josh go and dunk on guys. Whenever you have a player that's that versatile and can go to the hole and can shoot, it makes it tough for guys to defense."

Good news for Carolina: The NFL outlawed dunking this season and this game won't be played on the hardwood.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith likes being a bully. He admitted in a recent interview that he may be a better fit for his new team, citing a quote from the Baltimore Ravens defensive meeting room.

"Play like a Raven, Baltimore Ravens, we build bullies," Carolina's all-time leading receiver told CSNBaltimore.com.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera doesn't want to build bullies.

Rivera says one reason the Panthers lost last season's NFC divisional playoff game 23-10 to San Francisco was because they lost their composure, drawing three personal foul penalties for basically bullying the 49ers.

[+] EnlargeRon Rivera
Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images"If we're going to be a playoff team, we've got to do those things the right way and we've got to be able to handle it," coach Ron Rivera said.
He's trying to make sure it doesn't happen again.

So on Sunday night when Rivera saw first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin flip the ball at Kansas City's Chris Owens and subsequently draw a 15-yard penalty for head-butting the cornerback on the sideline, he stepped in for a lengthy lecture with the player that has replaced Smith as the No. 1 receiver.

"What we want guys to understand is that we have to maintain our composure on the football field," Rivera said. "That’s why we lost in the playoffs. It started with me. I made the mistake of getting caught up in that emotion. We have to learn how to control that."

Rivera was more proactive when Carolina cornerback Josh Norman got into a jawing match with wide receiver Dwayne Bowe in the second quarter of the 28-16 victory. The fourth-year Carolina coach immediately pulled Norman from the game even though he hadn't drawn a penalty.

Linebacker Thomas Davis helped drive home Rivera's message. As Bowe and Norman got into each other's faces, he got between them and pushed Norman away.

"If we’re going to be a playoff team, we’ve got to do those things the right way and we’ve got to be able to handle it," Rivera said. "When we see it, we pull guys to the side and try to get that corrected. We’re not going to play that way. We’re going to play smart football."

Rivera seemed more upset with Norman than he was with Benjamin because Norman has been around longer and should know better.

Benjamin is a rookie playing in his second preseason game. He hasn't had a history, at least in practice, of bullying defensive backs.

Rivera doesn't want it to become a habit as it was with Smith, who was released in March in part because some of his bullying -- with the opposition and teammates -- was a distraction to the team.

"I told Kelvin that this is going to happen, a guy is going to try to get inside your head and get you to play outside of your game," Rivera said. "I told him that when they start doing that it’s because they know you can do some good things. You’ll learn how to handle it and learn how to be graceful about it and keep going forward."

Benjamin admitted he made a mistake and let Owens bate him into losing his cool by "talking, just being a defensive player."

But Rivera also understand there's a time when a player has to "stand up for yourself"' if another player is trying to intimidate you.

"There’s a point where you have to draw a line and a guy has to understand that if you do this and continue to do this, then I’m going to draw a line in the sand," he said. "I told [Benjamin] that if you want to go get back at somebody, just go make a play."

Benjamin made a couple of nice plays, catching a 24-yard pass from starting quarterback Cam Newton over the middle to start Carolina's second scoring drive and a 17-yarder over the middle from backup Derek Anderson.

Both were in traffic. Both showed he can make the physical catch.

His 15-yard penalty took Carolina out of field goal range late in the half.

"That's something I've got to learn from," he said.

Norman made some nice, physical plays as well as he fights to remain among the top three cornerbacks. Although he seemingly didn't see anything wrong with the jawing that got him yanked -- "What do you want us to be out there, little puppets?" -- he understands the importance of control.

Rivera wants control. He wants his team to play smart.

He doesn't want to build bullies.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that made its way to the Carolina Panthers' practice field on Friday has a deeper meaning for coach Ron Rivera than most.

Rivera will get doused on Saturday in memory of ex-University of California teammate/roommate Paul Najarian after being challenged by nine-time Pro Bowl safety John Lynch.

Najarian lost a long battle with ALS on June 23 at the age 52. He visited Rivera in December 2012 at a point when the then-second-year Carolina coach was going through a tough time professionally.

In an email to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Rivera wrote: “He always had something encouraging to say to me my first two seasons as a head coach. He implored upon me to stick to my beliefs and never waver. I found strength in his words. But, when he told me he had ALS, I found even more strength. Here was my friend who was battling ALS, and he was imploring upon me to stay strong. That meant a lot.''

Rivera went from 6-10 and 7-9 during his first two seasons to 12-4 and the NFL Coach of the Year in 2013.

“Upon seeing him for the first time with ALS I was stunned,'' Rivera continued in his email. "I was even more taken by the fact that he had lost his voice. Paul had this big gregarious voice and laugh. It was gone, but not his spirit. He could only communicate by writing or trying to make hand gestures. I understood him for the most part and the one thing that stood out to me about him was he was worried about me.

“Paul and I were more than teammates. He and I were roommates our senior year. Over the years we stayed in touch throughout my playing and coaching careers. Paul was more than a teammate, roommate and friend, he was a Golden Bear. He was our brother. He is loved and missed.”

For those who have missed this campaign that has taken the country by storm, the ALS has more than quadrupled its donations in 2014 thanks to athletes and celebrities who have agreed to be doused with a bucket of ice water and make donations.

Carolina running backs Mike Tolbert, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were the first to partake on Friday, followed by tight end Greg Olsen, backup quarterback Derek Anderson, linebackers Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis, and mascot Sir Purr.

Rivera will be doused Saturday on camera for Fox Sports, which is televising Sunday night's exhibition game between Carolina and Kansas City at Bank of America Stadium.

Lynch is a color commentator for Fox.

"It's got some personal meaning to me,'' Rivera said. "So I'm honored John Lynch called me out on it and I'm going to most certainly call a couple of people out as well.''

Panthers Camp Report: Day 15

August, 12, 2014
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SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Carolina Panthers training camp from Wofford College:
  • Rookie wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin went high over the middle and hauled down yet another touchdown from quarterback Cam Newton in the final red-zone drills. The first-round pick out of Florida State clearly established himself as the top receiver coming out of training camp. If you ask me, he's the MVP of this camp because Carolina needed somebody to step forward and replace Steve Smith as a big-time weapon. Benjamin did.
  • Defensive end Frank Alexander was coach Ron Rivera's unofficial camp MVP. Entering his fourth season, Alexander has been suspended for the first four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He looked like a player fighting for his future, practicing harder and more consistently than ever. Rivera's second pick for MVP was defensive end Greg Hardy, whose well-documented off-the-field troubles have him playing for his future. Hardy was everywhere in the final practice, unstoppable on one-on-one pass rush drills against the tackles and guards. He also had two knockdowns in pass coverage, one more than 20 yards deep against tight end Greg Olsen.
  • Rivera might have second-thoughts about being the pretend quarterback during one-on-one pass-rushing drills. At one point on Tuesday linebacker Thomas Davis blew up his defender and then took a friendly shot at the coach that might have been harder than he intended. "Yes, he did,'' Rivera said. "I told him, 'If I bruise, he and I will have a conversation tomorrow." He liked the intensity Davis showed, though.
  • Much has been made about the close relationship between Benjamin and Newton. Add Davis and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly to that seemingly inseparable list of couples. "In all honesty, that's almost been since day one,'' Rivera said. "They do spend a lot of time together, and it's almost kind of scary, because as you watch them, you watch the rapport that they develop. And this is what you look for, is the unsaid communications. A guy can look or point, and the other guy knows what the other one's going to do. That type of relationship is key to being successful, whether it's on the offensive side or the defensive side."
  • Don't be surprised if undrafted wide receiver Philly Brown makes a late push to make the 53-man roster as a receiver and return specialist. Both Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman mentioned him as a player to watch moving forward, particularly as a return specialist. Gettleman still hasn't ruled out that the returners might not be on the roster.
  • The Panthers returned to Charlotte where they will complete the rest of the preseason preparation. They are off on Wednesday then resume practice on Thursday.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Richie Brockel is listed as a tight end and fullback, but he prefers to be called a tight end because he gets to do more there. He's jokingly volunteered to play defense, and he doesn't care what spot.

If there's one player who symbolizes what Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera wants his team to be like when it breaks training camp today, Brockel might be it.

Smart. Fiery. Versatile. Unselfish.

The fourth-year player out of Boise State apparently is good at doing taxes, too, spending part of his offseason working for an accounting firm.

But more than anything there is a toughness about Brockel that is contagious. You could see it during one-on-one drills with the linebackers on Monday as he handled Thomas Davis and anybody else who tried to get to the quarterback -- in this case played by Rivera.

Brockel does it because it's fun, not because he gets headlines.

Have you ever seen his name in a headline before today?

No. That's because he doesn't seek headlines, although he likes carrying and catching the ball occasionally.

"Richie is a jack-of-all-trades," Rivera said. "He does things we need. He does the dirty work. There's a toughness about Richie too that I like that helps transfer over to his teammates."

The one-on-one drill with the linebackers is the best place to see Brockel's true personality come through. He fights for every square inch of turf like it's the 15th round of a heavyweight fight, whether he's going against a Pro Bowler like Luke Kuechly or a rookie trying to make a name for himself.

"That's one of my favorite drills," Brockel says. "It's one-on-one competition. There's nothing more fun than that."

Told running back Kenjon Barner didn't look like he was having much fun, getting run over almost every time, Brockel understood. Again, that's why he likes the drill.

"Well, you can get exposed because it is one-on-one, and that's what makes it so fun," he said. "You're really getting after it with one guy and there's a clear winner and loser."

Brockel likes to win. He does the little things it takes to win.

He leaves the big things, such as catching touchdown passes and running for third downs, to the starts.

In three seasons, he has rushed four times for 13 yards and caught four passes for 25 yards. He had only one of each last season. That likely won't change this season with Mike Tolbert getting most of the runs at fullback and a plethora of receiving tight ends in Greg Olsen, Ed Dickson and Brandon Williams.

Depending on the knee sprain of Mike McNeill, Carolina could carry five tight ends if you count Brockel.

But you could count Brockel almost anywhere. Beyond tight end and fullback he plays on most of the special teams.

"I try to lead by example and do the right thing," Brockel said. "That's been something that's just fallen in place for me."

That's why Brockel will make the 53-man roster. That's why Rivera would love to have 53 players like Brockel.

"The thing about guys like him," Rivera said, "you get enough good, tough physical football players and it spreads to the other players.''

 

Panthers Camp Report: Day 14

August, 11, 2014
Aug 11
5:45
PM ET
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of the Carolina Panthers training camp from Wofford College:
  • Twenty years ago, for Carolina's inaugural trip to Wofford College for camp, there were 10 consecutive days when the temperature topped 100 degrees. It was an issue. This year it's the lack of heat that concerns coach Ron Rivera. He would have liked a few more hot, humid days to prepare Carolina for what it will face in the opener at Tampa Bay. Many days have been in the 70s. One practice was so cool that Rivera had to wear a jacket. So when the humidity rose toward the end of Monday's practice, you could see players wear down and the intensity decline. Rivera spent longer than normal talking to the team afterwards, reminding "you've got to fight it because that's probably what we're going to face when we go to Tampa Bay.''
  • Tight end/fullback Richie Brockel demonstrated why he will make the final roster during one-on-one drills with the linebackers. First he handled outside linebacker Thomas Davis and then he held his own against linebacker Chase Blackburn. Rivera said Brockel demonstrates the kind of toughness he wants to see from all his players. "It transfers to the rest of the team,'' he said. Brockel jokingly said he volunteered to play defense.
  • Rivera says he hasn't settled on a starting offensive line, but it appears set with Byron Bell at left tackle, Amini Silatolu at left guard, Ryan Kalil at center, Trai Turner at right guard and Nate Chandler at right tackle. The position of most concern entering camp was left tackle. Bell started the preseason opener and was there again for Monday's practice in full pads. He left at one point with a minor issue with patella tendinitis, but Rivera insisted that won't keep him out of a game. Garry Williams finished at left tackle and likely will give relief to both tackles when the season begins.
  • Undrafted rookie running back Darrin Reaves left practice with a knee injury and likely will be held out the next few days. He's impressed with his toughness and hard-nosed running, in some ways more than Kenjon Barner. Also out were defensive end Charles Johnson (hamstring), defensive end Mario Addison (flu), defensive end Kony Ealy (foot) and offensive lineman Derek Dennis (flu).
  • Wide receivers Tiquan Underwood, Brenton Bersin and Tavarres King began one segment of team drills so the coaches could get an idea of what they can do with quarterback Cam Newton. The staff is looking for a few receivers to consistently step up after the top three of Kelvin Benjamin, Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant. Underwood, signed as a free agent, looked good with a catch on the first play. Then he dropped the second pass that hit him in the numbers. If you were setting the 53-man roster today, he'd be around 54 or 55.
  • The Panthers practice at 9:25 a.m. ET on Tuesday, the final session of camp in Spartanburg before returning to Charlotte, N.C., for the rest of the preseason.
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Not all of the best moments of training camp happen on the practice field. Many of the most memorable ones happen in the dining hall or in interviews during down time.

Here's a look at some of the best non-action highlights for the Carolina Panthers after a week at Wofford College:
  • Safety Thomas DeCoud talking about his appearance on the Cartoon Network's ''Aqua Teen Hunger Force'' show imitating the voices of bongo-playing hippies for an episode and then doing an impromptu imitation of Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman: (Unfortunately, without Gettleman's deep Boston accent this doesn't translate as well): "Are you from Baaah-stan? Where ya from? Nice to meet ya.''It wasn't bad for an on-the-spot request for the former Atlanta Falcons safety, who claims he went with a Tommy Cheek -- half of the 1970s and '80s "Cheek and Chong'' duo -- voice for his impression of the hippies.
  • Afterwards, he added, "That was just off the top. I don’t know if it’s good or not.”
  • DeCoud saying he made the 245-mile drive from Atlanta to Charlotte in 2 1/2 hours (Hmmm): "Maybe I undershot the time,'' he said when asked how fast he drove.
  • Backup defensive end Mario Addison talking about the scare of his life when he fell off a jet ski in Puerto Rico on a vacation to celebrate his new two-year deal: “I’ve never been so scared in my life. I swallowed so much seawater I didn’t even want to play no more. I don’t know how to swim, so without the life vest I would’ve died, y’all.
    “Thank God it brought me back.”
  • Center Ryan Kalil talking about retired left tackle Jordan Gross, who has trimmed down 70 pounds (305 to 235) since the end of last season: "Yeah, I don’t like it. I'm not a big fan of it. He looks kind of weird. I told him it’s not against the rules to still stay in the weight room and maybe lift a little bit. But yeah, he looks really unhealthy. The problem is that he’s walking around, checking himself out in the mirror and he thinks he looks cool. But he just looks bad. I’ve told him that many times.''
  • Second-year defensive tackle Star Lotulelei when asked if he's ready to take the next step as a player: "I don't know what that means.''
  • Linebacker Thomas Davis when a reporter mistakenly referred to him as defensive end Charles Johnson: "I just want to make one thing clear, I look nothing like Charles Johnson.''
  • Davis on whether LeBron James, whom a reporter referred to as his good friend because the NBA star gave him a jersey and shoes after a Bobcats-Heat game, consulted him before returning to Cleveland: "Yeah, right. No, he didn't.''
  • Then asked to clarify their relationship, Davis said: "I wouldn't really call it a friendship. I'm a fan. He was just showing his appreciation for a fan. I'm excited he gave me his jersey and shoes, and that's the end of that.''
  • Quarterback Cam Newton after a practice when he saw a fan holding a poster featuring a picture of him and her now deceased father at around the same age (25) with the question of whether they look alike: "That ain't me.''
  • Newton did come back and sign the poster, which was enough to please Rona Neely of Greenville, S.C., even though she disagreed.
  • Running back Jonathan Stewart enjoying a quiet moment playing the piano in the lounge area of the student activity center. He's pretty good.
  • Running back DeAngelo Williams loudly slamming down a hand of cards, strutting away from the table and then returning to give a Hulk Hogan-like pose. (Here's where I'd normally put a quote, but the team's top back hasn't spoken to reporters since arriving at camp.)

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