Wednesday, June 18, 2014
Newton, Benjamin starting time together
By David Newton
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will remain in Charlotte for most of the next month rehabbing his left ankle while many of his teammates take a final vacation before training camp.
Panthers first-round pick Kelvin Benjamin is trying to soak in as much knowledge as he can and take advantage of his offseason proximity to QB Cam Newton.
First-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin will remain in town as well, studying the playbook and doing whatever he can to close the gap of knowledge on the veteran wide receivers.
Since they'll be in the same place, expect them to spend a lot of time together on and off the field developing the chemistry the Panthers hope will turn them into a potent combination.
You may even see them working together more Thursday, the last of the three-day minicamp and offseason workouts. Newton has increased what he's done in each of the first two days but hasn't participated in full team drills.
Don't be surprised to see him take a few snaps in team drills to give his offense and coaches a taste of what is to come when everybody reconvenes for camp in Spartanburg, S.C., on July 26.
Even if he doesn't, the time spent with Benjamin over the next month will be invaluable as rehabilitation from March surgery to tighten ligaments in the ankle will be completed.
"It's a huge plus," coach Ron Rivera said of his franchise quarterback and star receiver spending time together. "It's an opportunity to develop the rapport you need to have success."
Benjamin and Newton already have spent a lot of time together. Newton took the former Florida State star to his home in Atlanta during Memorial Day weekend to hang out on the lake, eat and play video games.
There even was good-humored ribbing about Benjamin's Seminoles beating Newton's Auburn Tigers in the BCS Championship this past season.
Benjamin chose to bond with Newton not only to learn all he can from the quarterback that will be throwing him passes, but to "stay out of trouble, do the right things."
He's staying in Charlotte the next month to do the same thing.
"I'm a rookie, so I've got to catch up with the older guys," Benjamin said.
Rivera isn't complaining.
"The more you get to know your teammates, the more you learn to believe in them and trust them," he said. "And that's important."
It's important for the entire team, but particularly the franchise quarterback and his top receiver, who at 6-5 and 240 pounds is expected to provide a big target -- particularly in the red zone. How well they connect could play a big role in how well the offense does this season with a complete new group of receivers.
Benjamin has shown his potential even without Newton throwing to him during offseason workouts. He went up high for one in the back of the end zone Wednesday that made Rivera's heart flutter, first because it was a great catch and second because Benjamin came down against the padding on the goal posts with two defenders.
Fortunately, everyone got up unscathed. And according to Benjamin, he got his feet down inbounds.
"For what he can do for us, believe me, I get so jacked up about that," Rivera said. "I'm fired up about it. The biggest thing is we've got to learn to throw that throw to him. ... Sometimes it's too low and sometimes it's too high.
"We've got to have that kind of relationship when we get to the corner of the end zone or we get to the goal post we know where we're throwing it. We're not throwing it over the goal post, we're not throwing it under the goal posts We're throwing it right at the cross[bar]."
Newton and Benjamin apparently will have a lot of time to work on that over the next month.