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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Panthers Open to Media, Closed Soon After

Media day closed Panther workouts, and lighted the shadows of what
happened over the last few days at Charlotte Christian.

Attendance was certainly something covered, but the biggest thing
unknown was the structure of the camp. Jordan Gross and Travelle
Wharton, the camp leaders, hired Velocity Sports Performance to cover
the conditioning portion, and installed portions of the offense and
defense during the 4 hour sessions.

They also had a lot of help from players who have experience with the
team and offense. In attendance from the past? Some of the former team
leaders, some considered the best the team has fielded at those
positions - Muhsin Muhammad, Wesley Walls, Steve Beuerlein, Jeff
Donnalley, Jeff Mitchell were there.

Media reports don't pinpoint defensive players, like Mike Minter or Mike
Rucker (actually, to back off Rucker, he's possibly considered a team
employee), both who would've been natural to show up. Unlike the
offense, which is a nearly universal Coryell system run by a number of
college teams and about a third of the NFL, the Jim Johnson system is
run by only a couple teams (Philadelphia, of course; St. Louis;
Carolina; and possibly New York depending on whether or not they
continued with the scheme after Steve Spagnuolo left for the Rams).

Carolina has hired numerous former players (Ricky Proehl, Ray Brown,
John Settle) among the younger level of coaches, in part to help handle
this situation as well - young coaches to help out the young players.
But it's great to finally see the level of history involved to allow
players who haven't been here in a decade to remain relevant.

Say what you want about Cam Newton, but he's doing the right things.
He's gotten more personal work in, you'd assume, than any other Panther.
Media exposure after the players-only workouts show two very good signs
- knowing (and therefore hopefully understanding) the offense fairly
well, and working out hard.

Newton flipped tires with the linemen, consistent with his actions at
Auburn and Blinn. They're the same actions that helped make him
successful there, championships at both, without a second year to build
on. That's not the actions of a guy trying to be an icon or
entertainer. That's the actions of a guy winning his teammates over -
not trying, doing. Working out and lifting with linemen is a
team-building activity you couldn't pay an analyst six figure salaries
to recreate.

The situation with the offense was inevitably overblown by Jon Gruden -
who grilled Newton, and rightly so, when Gruden asked about lengthy
playcalls and the response was "36". Add that with the Chudzinski "900
page playbook" comments by media and it became a crisis situation in the
media for a bit. But with good tutoring, he's learned it - with no
reason to suggest he otherwise wouldn't have within the structure of
minicamp. Which brings it back to the concern - that he "hadn't",
instead of he "couldn't". Newton's intelligence wasn't ever really
questioned, but his experience was (and it's still a concern - the world
he'll see from under center is a lot different from the one he saw in
the spread option SEC). But some of the things that were concerns -
character, work ethic - for now seem to be at bay.
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