Panther Paw Prints: Rookie Mini Camp Edition

Rivera and his wife at Kentucky Derby

We've been covering the Panther rookie mini-camp happenings and all of the roster transactions since it ended. Here's some additional content for your day.

So who are the coaches saying had a good camp? Of course the focus is on the rookie draft picks so here's a few links we haven't already singled out this week:

Barner impresses Panthers coaches - NFL -

Barner, who rushed for 1,767 yards and scored 23 touchdowns (21 on the ground) as a senior, was one of 59 rookies participating in the camp. That included the Panthers' other four draft picks, as well as 18 undrafted free agents and 36 tryout players. Rivera says of Barner: "If he continues to grow and improve and flash like he's been doing, he's got a real good chance to help us.'

More on Barner who many considered a value pick:

Carolina Panthers News: Kenjon Barner, Cam Newton - NFL Spin Zone - A General NFL Blog providing you all the NFL News, Rumors, Updates, and National Football League News.

While head coach Ron Rivera did not offer any more clues as to what Barner’s role will be in Charlotte, he did call Barner and fifth-round Iowa State Cyclones linebacker A.J. Klein "value picks". From the Charlotte Observer, ""We really do feel that was a value pick. We feel our last two picks (Klein and former Oregon RB Kenjon Barner) were value guys."

Only time will tell... We hear this every year from some rookie draft pick. Let's see if Barner backs it up:

Kenjon Barner opens Carolina Panthers' minicamp with chip on shoulder |
You know, in my mind I knew nothing was guaranteed," Barner said. "So I never hung my hat on what I heard, because I knew on this stage that anything could happen. I didn’t want to get stuck on being a fourth-rounder or anything like that, because I’ve seen in years past what can happen — and what has happened to guys who were supposed to go earlier and then didn’t. "So was I disappointed? Yeah. But it just gave me something to work for. I’m here now. Every day is a work day. I’ve got to play with a chip on my shoulder. Every day I’m going to remind myself that 181 people went before me."

We have a couple UDFAs that have a shot to help the secondary, guys we singled out (here too) the night we signed them:

Panthers Notebook: Pair of DBs stand out to Rivera | Carolina Panthers |

"The two guys we felt really good about, who we thought were draftable was the safety from Alabama… and I really liked Melvin White," Rivera said after the two-hour session. "He’s another guy we felt had a chance to get drafted and didn’t unfortunately. I think those two guys really showed well today."

The rookies from cooler climates are always in for a jolt when the y hit the Carolina heat, and it's not even hot yet:

Similar positions, different roles for Panthers | NFL (AP) | Latest news and video on the Dal...
"We both didn't work out, so there wasn't too much to look at," Lotulelei said. "We were on the sideline talking. He was a real cool guy over there and it's carried over here." Panthers defensive line coach Eric Washington wants Lotulelei and Short to spend time together outside the meeting room and practice field. Despite Lotulelei's low-key demeanor with reporters, Short said their conversations are far from one-sided. "We sit there at meetings and barely say anything. We focus and try to learn our playbooks," Short said. "But when we go to lunch or something, he's talking and he's opening up." Their discussions this week have been about pass protections, alignments and the speed of the pro game. "Ten times faster than college, just the tempo and coming out here in this heat," Short said after the second of two practices Friday at the Panthers' rookie minicamp. "It's not usually this hot outside at Purdue."

I love to hear these guys are being competitive already, in a good way of course.

I quick look back at the draft and a lagging review:

2013 NFL Draft: Carolina Panthers Draft Grade - NFL Mocks - 2013 NFL Mock Draft, Fantasy Football, NFL News, and NFL Mock Draft Databases
2nd Round 44th Overall — Kawann Short DT, Purdue — A As I said, the Panthers really needed help at DT. While Lotulelei isn’t a great inside pass rusher, Short has shown that pass rush, but needs to get more consistent. Lotulelei and Short should give the Panthers a feared DT tandem for years.

Moving on the big cheese, Mr. Cam Newton. This first one comes via Mike Shula, Panthers OC:

Panthers coordinator Mike Shula wants to see Cam Newton stay on an even plane emotionally - The Washington Post

"We want him to make quick decisions -- and the right decisions -- and get the ball out," Shula said. "That helps the receivers and the offensive line and keeps people off of him. I think he’s gotten better each year. I feel better about him now than I did last year. You can’t substitute anything for the experience he’s gotten. The ups and downs. You are going to be better because of it. As we feel like we have guys surrounding him that are poised to have really good years." "The big thing is now that he’s had an opportunity to look at the guys and use it to the best of his ability," Newton said. "I think going into our third season and Cam having the type of offseason he has this season is going to be really exciting." As for the offense itself, Shula said Newton will still be used as a ball carrier but wouldn’t say how much the team will use the zone read option that Chudzinski used so frequently. Newton carried the ball 127 times as a rookie and 126 times last year. "You would be foolish to say you’re not going to use it," Shula said. "We’ll do things differently to keep things off balance."

More on Cam...

Cam Newton and Expectations - Cat Crave - A Carolina Panthers Fan Site - News, Blogs, Opinion and more.
From a performance standpoint it is safe to say that on most occasions he has risen to the challenge and then some. Of course he has taken some lumps along the way and learned some valuable lessons. Say what you want about his character, but make no mistake Cam Newton is not afraid of expectations on the football field. The problem seems to be with him meeting those expectations off the field. I think going into his 3rd year in the NFL now is the time something must change. No one doubts Cam’s preparation for each and every game. No one doubts his determination to be one of the best on the field of play. The problem seems to be the overwhelming perception that he is failing to meet his character expectations. What he needs to understand is that the NFL at the end of the day is first and foremost a business. Everything that you say good, bad, or indifferent defines you in the eyes of the media and fans alike.

This guy makes a point about the 2003 defense:

Carolina Panthers 2013 Defense
A lot of it was remembering just how good of a running back tandem Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster were. More of it was how good the defense was. You remember. It was Rucker/Jenkins/Buckner/Peppers on the line. Dan Morgan and Will Witherspoon were prowling behind them. And then there was… well, behind our linebackers was… Neither of us could remember. I remembered Mike Minter, of course. I remembered Deon Grant, and Ricky Manning Jr. only because of the three interceptions he had against Donovan McNabb in the NFC Championship Game and because he beat up a guy in a Denny’s. Neither of us could remember who the starting corners were. I couldn’t for the life of me remember their names. It was Terry Cousin and Reggie Howard. How could I have forgotten those household names?

More from Cat Crave, this time defending LaFell which can be quite a chore around here:

The Case for Brandon LaFell - Cat Crave - A Carolina Panthers Fan Site - News, Blogs, Opinion and more.

I’m not so sure why I like him so much though, his track record is not exactly stellar. Compared to most other starting receivers on other teams he isn’t exactly beating them, in fact his stats aren’t exactly up to par with the others. Hell, Domenik Hixon has already had a better single season than LaFell, and Hixon has been regulated to the bench for most of his career. But I still feel for LaFell in some odd way. I think he has a ton of potential as a receiver. He is tall, standing in at 6 foot 2 inches, athletic, and most importantly; he has terrific hands, at times, excluding his sure touchdown drop against the Chiefs. He has made spectacular catches in the past and with enough practice and time I’m sure he can become an elite receiver. He has a ton of upside and has definitely had all the time in the world to learn from one of the best receivers in the league, Steve Smith.

What will they think of next?

15 things we learned from NFL rookie minicamps -

15. Chicago Bears coach Marc Trestman put a camera on his quarterbacks' helmet during practice sessions so he could see where the player was looking. It will be interesting to see if this catches on around the league.

If they did this with Jimmy Clausen we would see a lot of the sidelines ;)...

Do you like the cover photo? That's Ron Rivera and his wife at the Kentucky Derby rocking his Carolina blue.

Next up is a video of Cam getting a surprise at the end of one of his charity events:

Drex & Maney Surprise Cam Newton For His Birthday - YouTube

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