- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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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:
When coach Ron Rivera said Sunday's practice was a "big-time tone down'' he wasn't joking. After six days in pads, players were given a break with shorts and shells. The tempo wasn't nearly as fast after one of the more physical practices of camp on Saturday. At one point offensive line assistant Ray Brown began cracking jokes when his group moved from the sun to the shade for a drill. "Modern day NFL! Y'all get water,'' he said sarcastically. The players will get another break with an off day Monday before reporting back to Wofford College on Monday night. It will give the coaches a chance to break down tape and evaluate.
General manager Dave Gettleman stopped in his tracks and shook his head when he saw 14 players working with trainers on stationary bicycles and other conditioning devices during practice. He wasn't really surprised after remembering Saturday's practice, which focused on short yardage and goal-line plays, was so physical, and many of the players were sidelined with soreness. Among those who didn't practice were defensive ends Charles Johnson (hamstring) and Greg Hardy (shoulder contusion). Both are expected to play in Friday night's exhibition opener against Buffalo.
Among those who missed practice was Charles Godfrey, who is making the transition from safety to corner. While Godfrey watched, Josh Norman and Josh Thomas continued to work their way back into the rotation after missing much of the first week of camp with injuries. Thomas sent wide receiver Toney Clemons over his shoulder with a sideline hit, and Norman made a nice aggressive play on a deep pass to Tiquan Underwood, who needs to make those plays to make the final roster. As I've said before, the toughest cuts on this team are going to come at corner, where a returning veteran or two might not make it. At this point, I wouldn't say Godfrey is a lock, although coaches want to give him every opportunity because of his leadership.
First-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin not only is the favorite target of quarterback Cam Newton, he's a fan favorite. They cheer when he gets a drink of water. On Sunday, they cheered when he caught a pass three yards out of bounds. Granted, it once again showed his athletic ability the way he went high to get it, but in the eyes of those sitting on the grassy hill, the former Florida State wide receiver can do no wrong.
The Panthers return to practice at 3:10 p.m. on Tuesday, but don't be surprised if it's moved to the morning. Rivera did that when the Panthers returned from their first day off.