SPARTANBURG, S.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – The first day of training camp on Wednesday is officially in the books for the Carolina Panthers and right now, it’s all about getting to know each other and improving over the next three weeks.
One of the biggest adjustment challenges during camp will undoubtedly be meshing with new quarterback Sam Darnold, who was traded by the New York Jets to Carolina this offseason.
All offseason, Darnold has said the right things about wanting to improve and become a leader for the team, but right now, head coach Matt Rhule says he wants him to just focus on being the best quarterback he can be.
“What I’m really looking for from Sam (Darnold) right now is be the first guy in the building and the last guy to leave,” Rhule said. “I want him to absolutely grind and outwork the competition. It’s a lot more important to me than words.”
The practice began early at 8:30 a.m. and along with running back Christian McCaffrey, Darnold was one of the first players on the field.
“Sam needs to be the first guy in the building and the last one to leave,” Rhule added. “He looked very prepared today and that’s how he’ll lead.”
Darnold didn’t speak with the media Wednesday but he and backup quarterbacks PJ Walker and Will Grier showcased their skills in 7 vs. 7 and 1-on-1 drills.
One of the players Darnold will be reconnecting with is wide receiver Robby Anderson, who spent time with the Jets as well before signing with the Panthers last year.
Anderson had a career year in his first season in Carolina and having Darnold back under center could help him take another step forward.
“My mindset is, I’m trying to go from good to great,” Anderson said. “We didn’t win last year and that’s the most important thing, so I’m just going to do more on my end to try to contribute to winning.”
Defensively, the same mindset applies as not worrying about whose leading as much as improving skills.
Rhule listed Shaq Thompson, AJ Bouye, Daquan Jones and Morgan Fox as some of the leaders on defense and third-year defensive end Brian Burns spoke about how he’s gained 12 pounds of muscle this offseason and will be motivated even more with some of the additions such as Hassan Reddick.
“I’ve gotta get there first, before he (Reddick) gets there. He’s gonna bring another dog out of me,” Burns said. “It’s going to be fun to have help, one. But it’s also gonna push me to work harder and get there faster because I know he’s coming.”
Another takeaway from Fox 46’s Will Kunkel was first-round rookie Jaycee Horn, who had his speed, and physical ability on full display.
Practice wrapped up before 11 a.m. and to cap things off, the team had some smoothies.
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