NFL: Panthers Notebook
SPARTANBURG, S.C. ó The Carolina Panthers are in the final season of a 15-year deal with Wofford College. The renewal period comes amid an NFL trend to hold training camp at home.
Only the Panthers have no plans to stop making the 90-minute drive hereó not when it’s the owner’s alma mater and his name is slapped on the side of the athletic building.
“We’ve been very happy there,” team president Mark Richardson said Friday. “It has all the elements we need in a training camp, and we function very smoothly down there. We think it’s better to go away than stay home. I do not anticipate us practicing in Charlotte at our own facility.”
Jerry Richardson, Mark’s father and a former Wofford receiver, cut a deal with the school shortly after he was awarded the expansion Panthers in 1993. He made large donations to help build the Richardson Center and the school’s three full-size practice fields.
Richardson’s recent $1 million gift helped pay for a renovation to the athletic center. A new building with a bigger weight room opened this year, giving the Terriers some of the top facilities in the NCAA’s lower-tier Football Championship Subdivision.
“It’s been a very positive relationship,” Wofford athletic director Richard Johnson said. “There are so many benefits.”
Although 17 of the NFL’s 32 teams now hold camp at their own facilities, Panthers coach John Fox prefers going away. Mark Richardson said they’ll soon begin discussions on a new deal, likely to be for less than 15 years.
“The first time we decided to hold training camp there it was not a very long discussion, nor was it a negotiation,” Richardson said, laughing. “I don’t expect it to be this time, either.”
Richardson said his father continues to gain strength following a heart transplant on Super Bowl Sunday. The 73-year-old former Baltimore Colts receiver, who has done little traveling since the surgery, has not attended training camp.
“He’s getting stronger, and his body has accepted the new heart,” his son said. “He’s getting his energy back. It’s hard to actually pin a timetable on when he’s going to be doing what.”
LINEBACKER HELP: With starters Jon Beason (hamstring) and Thomas Davis (knee) still sidelined, the Panthers added depth at linebacker ó at the expense of the long-snapping competition.
Carolina signed Kelvin Smith on Friday and released long-snapper Nick Sundberg.
Smith, who played at Syracuse, was drafted in the seventh round by Miami in 2007. He played in four games as a rookie before spending last season on injured reserve with a knee injury. Smith was waived last week by the New York Giants.
Beason has been out since the opening practice, and Davis sprained his right knee Wednesday.
Sundberg, an undrafted rookie, fell behind J.J. Jansen in the competition for Carolina’s long-snapping position, open after veteran Jason Kyle wasn’t re-signed.
TIGHT END CHANGE: The biggest promotion of camp belongs to Gary Barnidge.
The second-year tight end leapfrogged two spots on the depth chart Friday, working with the first team ahead of incumbent starter Jeff King and last year’s backup Dante Rosario.
“He’s a guy that’s had a good camp. We like to keep competition going,” coach John Fox said. “There have been no final decisions to this point, but we try to reward guys who are doing well.”
The 6-foot-5, 246-pound Barnidge, a fifth-round pick from Louisville in 2008, played almost exclusively on special teams last season. But he said he’s gained some strength and has a better grasp of the offense.
“This year’s a lot different because I understand everything,” Barnidge said. “Now I’m just playing and having fun.”
Fox said Barnidge has become a better blocker, the primary duty for a tight end in Carolina’s offense. King caught 21 passes for 195 yards and one touchdown last season.
EXTRA POINTS: G C.J. Davis (ankle) remained sidelined. … Fox sought out rookie RB Mike Goodson during a break in the morning practice to emphasis ball security. “Guard that with your life,” he said. … Saturday’s 11 a.m. practice at Bank of America Stadium will include a 36-play scrimmage with the first full contact of camp. Admission is free. “I think the real hard core fans are there, and they’ve got the good seats,” Fox said.