For the first time this offseason and in the coach Matt Rhule era, the Panthers rookies took the field for their three-day minicamp.
It was actually a long time coming. Rookie minicamp was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But Rhule said he hopes this camp will be an opportunity to get to know the players and help the players get acclimated quickly.
“Last year, I didn’t meet the players till almost August,” Rhule said.
The Panthers have come to an agreement with seven of the 11 players they drafted in the 2021 NFL draft, as well as a few undrafted rookies.
There were 34 players on the Panthers’ rookie minicamp roster and all 34 players were present, including eighth overall pick Jaycee Horn, who is wearing a No. 8 jersey to honor the late Kobe Bryant.
At one point during the practice, the rookies briefly lined up in seven-on-seven drills. No passes came Horn’s way.
Second-round pick Terrace Marshall was at practice, but participated mostly on the sideline and with trainers. He had a knee scope surgery in January, and a foot injury prior to that, so Rhule said he wanted to ease him in.
“We’re just going to continue to monitor and not do too much with him and monitor his movement patterns,” Rhule said. “At the end of the day, I asked him, ‘How long do you want to play in the NFL.’ He said, ‘Eight, 10, 15 years.’ I said, ‘All right let’s start slowly and build up.’ ”
Marshall’s injury history is one reason why some draft experts believe he fell into the second round. Rhule said he had a first-round grade on Marshall and was glad he got him.
“He’s just got to take it one day at a time,” Rhule said.
While players like Marshall and Horn are guarantees to make this roster, others are trying out and trying to get noticed.
And Friday was one of their first opportunities to do so.
“I’m just estatic,” undrafted rookie offensive lineman David Moore said. “Everything really hasn’t hit me yet. But just to be here in front of you guys, it just brings a smile to my face.”
The Panthers also have five players listed as tryout players, including former Northwestern quarterback Peyton Ramsey and former Washington quarterback Kevin Thomson.
“I just want to show that I can operate really well and lead an offense out of a huddle,” Thomson said. “That everyone has confidence in me running the plays, and calling it out of the huddle.”
There’s not much to take from the first day of rookie minicamp. Players participated mostly in individual and position drills. Rhule said rookie minicamp is more of a learning experience than it is a competition to make the roster.
That’s for training camp. Instead, they plan to treat the players as if they are already on the team and evaluate them throughout that process.
“We’re going to evaluate the way they do meetings, the way they practice, their skill set, but it’s not really a competitive camp as it is a teaching camp,” he said.
The rookies have two more days of minicamp. After that, the Panthers will hold a mandatory minicamp for all of the players.
That’s when the competition will really begin.