Armstrong: Notes from the opening of Panthers camp

Mark Armstrong Image
Thursday, July 26, 2018

SPARTANBURG, SC (WTVD) -- As far as hijinks go, the Panthers move-in day came up short by league standards.

After all, there was no guy dressed head-to-toe in USA gear, like at Chiefs camp:

And certainly no helicopter arrivals, like Antonio Brown pulled off as the Steelers opened for business:

The best the Panthers could offer? Christian McCaffrey on a skateboard. Which sounds almost like an exclamation. As in "Holy McCaffrey on a skateboard man, I thought I'd seen everything!"

Speaking of, McCaffrey has put on six pounds of muscle by his measure this offseason, all the better to handle an increased workload this season.

Immersing himself fully into offseason preparation has been another big plus for Christian. He started out behind the eight-ball last year, waiting for the end of his academic term at Stanford before jumping into practice.

Linebacker Shaq Thompson had an eventful offseason, getting engaged and preparing to have another child. He described himself as a "blind mouse" the first couple years after being drafted, but thanks to the benefits of experience and the constant tutelage of Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis and new defensive coordinator Eric Washington, he feels ready to make a leap this year.

That'd certainly come in handy what with Davis' four-game suspension to start the season. Most importantly though - Thompson says he's been seeing signs that this is his year. Starting with stays out in California and Seattle, he keeps seeing the No. 54 everywhere, from license plates to billboards. He's now convinced it's "the year of 54".

Dominating every Panthers conversation is, of course, Cam Newton. Healthy all offseason for a change, he was present at OTAs and hosted an informal workout at Under Armor founder Kevin Plank's Sagamore Farms estate not that long ago. Since nothing Cam does is understated, a slick promo video of the workouts soon appeared on his Instagram.

Greg Olsen could barely contain his playful derision when asked about Cam's offseason workouts (and the video that followed).

"We all saw it. I'm sure you follow him, as we all do," Olsen said. He did compliment Cam for his hosting skills at the workouts and said he's happy to see him energetic and vivacious because "that's when Cam's at his best."

Devin Funchess is entering a crucial year for his earnings potential. After immediately blossoming last season following the departure of Kelvin Benjamin, Funchess' production dipped at the end of the year.

He's yet to prove he's a true No. 1 receiver in the league, but there's a chance the Panthers are already believers. Asked about his goals and any contract suspense, Funchess said he's only focused on playing football and "being the best me I can be."