All eyes on Newton’s ankle at Panthers’ training camp

nfl-camnewtonpracticeThe Carolina Panthers open training camp practices Friday in Spartanburg knowing that they’re 2014 hopes may last as long as quarterback Cam Newton’s ankle can carry them.

Preliminary reports indicate Newton’s ankle is well ahead of schedule and he should be ready for action as the Panthers hit the practice field at Wofford College. Newton will begin the task of getting to know a new – and significantly bigger – receiving corps.

With the familiar 5-foot-9, 185-pound Steve Smith is now playing for the Baltimore Ravens, Newton may find even easier to locate his new target – 6-foot-5, 240-pound Kelvin Benjamin, the team’s first-round draft choice out of Florida State who literally grabbed attention with numerous great catches during OTAs and minicamp.

Still, wide receiver is considered the team’s weakest position until the Panthers prove otherwise. Despite Newton’ optimistic pronouncements, the Panthers really do not have a proven No. 1 or No. 2 receiver.

Benjamin clearly has the most talent, but he will likely have growing pains throughout his rookie season. Veterans Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant and Tiquan Underwood provide a solid presence, but it is hard to see them as more than a trio of No. 3 receivers. More names include Tavarres King, Marvin McNutt and Brenton Bersin.

But no one knows if any will emerge as legit options, in which case Newton may have to go back to doing it with his feet instead of his arm. And with their only proven offensive weapon starting the season with a bad ankle, the Panthers hope they don’t get off on a bad foot.

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