Postcard from camp: Panthers
In Spartanburg, S.C., at Wofford College, the same campus owner Jerry Richardson roamed as a student a half-century ago. Other than a few shiny new buildings (it's a lovely little campus), it's not a lot different from the place Richardson attended. Nor is it any cooler. When practice began Sunday at 6, it was 88, with a heat index of 99, 95 percent humidity and thunderstorms on the way. Richardson drove down from Charlotte for the practice. And if you're coming for practice Wednesday, bring an umbrella. It'll be 102 and sunny.
The fans have welcomed Newton with open arms -- anything successful Sunday night got a rousing hand from the several thousand there for training camp -- but Newton knows, as do the Panthers, that he'll be judged on games, not the friendly environment of steamy camp workouts. Owner Jerry Richardson has already let Newton know he'll be under a very hot spotlight, because of being the first draft pick overall and because Carolina has been looking for a quarterback of the future ever since letting Kerry Collins walk 13 years ago. It's unfair to ask a young player to shoulder so much of a franchise's burden, but fair or not, it's what Newton faces -- in a hurry -- in Carolina.
Tight end Greg Olsen, who came in trade from Chicago for a third-round pick, is a mystifying player. Why did the Bears draft an offensive tight end in the first round, and why wasn't Olsen given the chance to develop his skills in the Bear offense? Both good questions, but with Carolina offensive coordinator Rod Chudzinski calling the plays and loving tight ends, I like Olsen to re-emerge as an offensive threat if he stays healthy.
Always like the Wofford cafeteria because of its variety -- and its vegetables, which, as you may know, are in short supply very often on this trip. Unless you count ketchup as a vegetable. This afternoon, the steamed zucchini was especially strong, along with the steamed cauliflower (not quite as good; slightly overcooked). Had a fine turkey burger patty with a slice of pork loin ... and a Starbucks bottled coffee drink, whatever those things are called. After a long morning writing for the magazine, that really hit the spot, all of it. Grade: B+.
I don't like a three-game November road trip, with Peyton Manning as the middle of the sandwich. And I don't like Green Bay coming to town in Week 2 off a 10-day break following the Pack's Thursday night opener. But let's face it: Could you invent a schedule in the tough NFC South that any team would actually look forward to?