Sunday, April 20, 2014
OTAs start of renovation of Carolina WRs
By David Newton
The $87 million renovation of Bank of America Stadium continues, but a more significant reconstruction begins Monday deep in the bowels of the place the Carolina Panthers call home.
Yes, the offseason workout program is here.
It's not mandatory, but the Panthers expect most if not all of their players to participate. That includes quarterback Cam Newton, who is recovering from offseason surgery on his left ankle that is expected to keep him out of on-field drills until training camp begins in late July.
Newton won't be around for the whole offseason program because he's taking classes at Auburn, but he will have a presence.
The first phase of the program will last two weeks. It is focused on strength and conditioning as well as rehab. Perhaps more importantly, it will allow a free-agency class that includes a new group of wide receivers to replace the top four from last season to integrate with returning players.
The team released all-time leading receiver Steve Smith and let Brandon LaFell, Ted Ginn Jr. and Domenik Hixon go to other teams in free agency. They have been replaced by Jerricho Cotchery (Pittsburgh), Jason Avant (Philadelphia) and Tiquan Underwood (Tampa Bay). They will be implemented into a group of young receivers -- Marvin McNutt, Tavarres King, Kealoha Pilares, Toney Clemons and Brenton Bersin -- who will finally get a chance to prove themselves.
The chemistry they develop in the film and workout room will be the first step in building the chemistry they will ultimately have on the field.
Phase 2 of the program is a three-week period that allows on-field workouts with individual player instruction and drills. No live contact or team offense vs. defense drills are permitted.
Phase 3 won't begin until late May after Memorial Day weekend. It is a four-week period in which the team can conduct a total of 10 days of organized practice. There is no live contact, but 7-on-7, 9-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills are permitted.
Among the more significant lingering questions is the health of free safety Charles Godfrey, who continues to rehab the Achilles injury that sidelined him the final 14 games of last season.
The Panthers still have to decide whether they will keep Godfrey or release him with a June 1 designation to save $5.1 million under the salary cap. They can't make that decision until Godfrey is cleared medically. The team signed former Atlanta safety Thomas DeCoud as insurance in free agency.
This also will be a key time in determining who will back up Newton in 2014. Veteran Derek Anderson, re-signed to a two-year deal during the offseason, should have no trouble holding down the second spot.
But the Panthers also want to take a good look at Matt Blanchard and Joe Webb.
The last part of the program is a mandatory minicamp June 17-19. Then it's a short break before things begin for real with training camp in Spartanburg, S.C.