Kelvin Benjamin returns to practice

Updated: August 2, 2014, 2:47 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Carolina Panthers first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin returned to practice on Saturday showing no lingering effects of the bruised knee suffered six days ago.

And the 6-foot-5 wide receiver did it with flair, going up and over starting cornerback Melvin White for a catch on the first pass of team drills.

"He's a good target," Carolina coach Ron Rivera said of the 28th pick in this year's draft. "He's the kind of target you need. ... He may not catch 20-30 balls a game. He may catch two or three because what may happen is people may have to take him out of the game. If that happens, other people have to make plays."

Benjamin said he didn't experience any pain or side effects from the injury.

"I feel great," he said. "I missed a couple of practices, so that was a downfall for me. But to get back out there and continue where I left off at felt good."

The former Florida State standout wore an elastic sleeve on his left leg, but otherwise picked up where he left off before banging his knee on the ground during Sunday's practice.

During one drill in which he took a tumble in the end zone after being tripped up by a defender, he jumped to his feet and ran on to the next play.

"I was pleased," wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl said. "He was sharp today. Looked good, catching the ball well. The misperception that Kelvin is (a) raw route runner and he has a long way to go, that's not true at all.

"He's got a great feel for the game."

Benjamin and quarterback Cam Newton quickly re-established the chemistry they developed together on their own while Newton rehabilitated from offseason ankle surgery.

Whether it was a bullet over the middle or a sideline route coming out of the end zone, it was obvious Benjamin has replaced Steve Smith as Newton's top wide receiver target.

"You see a guy who is very, very confident, very comfortable with who he is," Rivera said of Benjamin. "It's funny, to watch him in meetings and see him ... you wonder because he's so young. But then everything he's seeing and writing down, he's transferring it right back onto the field."

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter

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