The Carolina Panthers are officially preparing for the 2014 season now that OTA’s (organized team activities) got underway on Monday.
Phase 1, which will last for the next two weeks, involves strength and conditioning workouts and rehabbing injuries. It will also give any newly acquired free agents a chance to get to know their new teammates.
The most significant rehab facing the Panthers would be that of quarterback Cam Newton, who had surgery on his left ankle in mid-March and is expected to miss four months. He is expected to be ready once training camp begins in late July, but plans to split his time during OTA’s between Charlotte and Auburn, Ala., where he is taking classes to finish his degree.
Phase 2 will involve workouts on the field over a three-week period with coaches getting to instruct their players, but no live contact is permitted.
Phase 3 will get underway after the Memorial Day Holiday and last for four weeks. It will give all the draft picks a chance to integrate themselves into their new team and get acclimated to life in the NFL. Teams can hold up to 10 organized practices, but no live contact is permitted.
Most teams usually use Phase 3 to conduct 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills and culminate the final three days with a mandatory mini-camp, which the Panthers will hold from June 17-19.
The team has plenty of questions marks entering the season despite coming off an NFC South Division Championship with a 12-4 record. The Panthers have never been to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
Newton’s injury, the departure of leading receiver Steve Smith as well as receivers Ted Ginn Jr. and Brandon LaFell, and the retirement of left tackle Jordan Gross leave plenty of holes to fill on offense.
The defense, which ranked second in the NFL– behind only Super Bowl champion Seattle– in points per game allowed (15.1) and total yards allowed (301.2), remains largely intact.