--To the surprise of no one, defensive end Julius Peppers was a no-show at rookie minicamp.
But nobody who works at Bank of America Stadium seemed all that concerned.
Coach John Fox reiterated what general manager Marty Hurney has said in the past -- that he expects Peppers, the team's franchise player, to be in Spartanburg, S.C. for the start of training camp July 31.
"That's kind of what I expect. That's typically when our season starts," Fox said.
He gave no indication as to why he believes that to be true, except to say the Panthers have had good communication with Peppers' agent Carl Carey.
Of course, a lot could happen in the meantime, including a trade.
As for Peppers, it's hard to know exactly what he's thinking since he and his agent Carl Carey have gone underground since the team slapped the franchise tag on him against his wishes.
--After more than six months of rehabilitation on a torn ACL in his knee, LB Dan Connor is back on the practice field this weekend for the Carolina Panthers at minicamp.
"It's just an unbelievable feeling just to put the helmet on," Connor said. "Now it's a matter of working out the kinks. But for six-and-a-half months I'm feeling pretty good."
Connor was the team's third-round draft pick in 2008 and there was plenty of buzz about him being a valuable special teams player and backup middle linebacker for Jon Beason. But Connor injured his knee last year in the preseason and was lost for the season.
This past weekend he was working with the first-team defense with Beason recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. He said he's not quite 100 percent, but he's getting close.
He's viewing 2008 as his "redshirt season," but said he's learned a lot from watching the games from the sidelines.
"As far as how game days work and adjustments and from one series to another you can change the entire scheme of your defense," Connor said. "That was a neat thing to be able to watch without having to be thrown to the wolves. You can watch and observe and realize that when it's my turn I have to be able to be prepared and be quick and be able to react."
--Former Carolina Panther Mike Rucker will be trying his hand at broadcasting this fall for the Carolina Panthers as a color analyst. He'll work alongside veteran play-by-play commentator Mike Morgan, according to the team's website. They replace Steve Beuerlein and Garry Williams, who has moved to a new market.
Rucker spent his entire nine-year NFL career with Carolina before retiring after the 2007 season. Morgan joins the telecasts after working with the University of South Carolina basketball and baseball broadcasts.
--Pro Bowl linebacker Jon Beason joked that he received a "random text message" from someone last week telling him to look after rookie Everette Brown and take good care of him.
"Everything's great about him. He's a good player, good person, works hard. He's just from Florida State -- but other that, I can get past that," said Beason, a star at rival University of Miami.
--Top pick Everette Brown caught the eye of veteran defensive tackle Damione Lewis at rookie minicamp.
"He's moving good," Lewis said. "He's quick off the ball and we're just waiting to get him going and let coach work with and get his fundamentals down. When we put the pads on we'll se. That is always the test."
Fourth-round pick Mike Goodson, a running back from Texas A&M, looked extremely quick running pass routes from the slot. Maybe too fast. Goodson wound up getting sick and had to leave the morning practice with an illness.
--OG Duke Robinson, the team's fifth-round pick, is one of the few guys who can measure up to Jeff Otah. Robinson is 6-feet-5 and 330 pounds, the same weight as Otah but one incher shorter.
--Gone this year are the barrels that quarterbacks would try to throw in during warmups. Now there's a large net with three pockets they must hit instead and various other drills designed to improve accuracy.
"We've been throwing in barrels since I got here in '03," said quarterback Jake Delhomme. "There's nothing wrong with that, but you get to do something new. It's back to bags and different things that it's been a while since I've done. But I think that's great. I think the older you get you really have to hone in on fundamentals, because things can slip. I'm extremely excited we're getting back to doing a lot of those things."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Young ... that is the best word to describe how we'd be. We all know what Charles Johnson can do coming off the bench. He's a very productive player. As a starter, we don't know. And then we have (second-round pick) Everette Brown, a very talented guy coming in and Hilee Taylor will have a year under his belt, too. I think we have a talented group, but obviously with Pep you're better." -- MLB Jon Beason envisioning the Carolina defense if DE Julius Peppers doesn't play this season.