The Carolina Panthers made history on Thursday by holding a joint practice with a high school football team in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
The Spartanburg High School Vikings went through warmups and had a chance to interact with Carolina’s coaches and players at Wofford College before breaking off and doing their own work on an adjacent field.
Panthers director of community relations Riley Fields said it is the first time an NFL team has practiced alongside a high school team.
Fields said the organization wanted to celebrate the NFL’s Play 60 initiative by doing something special and unique. He said the Panthers needed to clear everything with the NFL, the NCAA and state high school officials before the project initiative was granted.
“Everyone said, `Wow this is a great idea,“’ Fields said. “… We felt it was a special day for our players and for the Spartanburg High School football players.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said when Fields initially approached him about the idea he was against it. But the NFL Coach of the Year soon changed his mind once he realized it could be a huge benefit to the high school athletes.
“To me it’s about the love of the game and bringing it back to the community,” Rivera said.
Spartanburg High School coach Chris Miller said he thought it was a joke at first when his office received a call about practicing with the Panthers.
“It is just an unbelievable opportunity for us,” Miller said.
Miller said watching an NFL team run through similar drills to what they run in practice was an important lesson for his players.
“We’re constantly talking about it and they are doing it over and over again. Now they see guys who have paid the price and look where it has gotten them,” Miller said.
Rivera said the experience was also fun for his players.
“When you talked to some of our guys they had a chance to reminisce about the good old days,” Rivera said. “I was standing over there watching (the Vikings) earlier and it took me back to playing at Seaside High School. It was kind of neat.”
Linebacker Thomas Davis, the elder statesman of the Panthers, said it was an opportunity he would have loved to have had as a teenager growing up playing football in Shellman, Georgia.
“It will go a long way in these kids’ lives knowing they had an opportunity to practice with Panthers,” Davis said. “I impressed upon the kids the importance of coming out here and working hard and being able to do your job and listen to your coach.”
Video goes viral
If football doesn’t work out, Nila Kasitati might have a future in the entertainment business.
The guard’s rookie skit rendition of John Legend’s “All of Me” Wednesday night in front of Washington Redskins teammates and coaches in Richmond, Virginia, made him internet famous as video went viral.
Linebacker Will Compton posted video of Kasitati singing and players joining in and waving cell phones around like lighters.
To coach Jay Gruden, it was a highlight of the team’s annual rookie tradition.
“He was good because we’ve had some pretty poor performances up to that point,” Gruden said Thursday. “I think Nate Sudfeld, he didn’t get on TV because he was so bad as a singer. He got booed off the stage. (Receiver Josh) Doctston got booed off the stage. We’ve had a couple guys get booed off the stage, so it’s been a tough crowd.”
Players were all in for Kasitati, an undrafted free agent out of Oklahoma. Compton and tight end Niles Paul asked fans to tag Legend in their tweets so the singer could see Kasitati’s performance.
Kasitati said he sang in church with his brothers as a kid and practiced with fellow guard Shawn Lauvao’s ukulele.
“I got a chance to use it and show a little Aloha sprit to the guys,” Kasitati said. “It got a good response from the guys, everybody was into it and I had everybody singing.”
Broncos: Who’s No. 1?
The Denver Broncos knew Peyton Manning was the unquestioned starter entering the last four training camps.
A week into this year’s camp in Englewood, Colorado, the reigning Super Bowl champions haven’t named a No. 1 guy, and the battle to be the starter will likely continue at least through the first preseason game at Chicago on Aug. 11.
Mark Sanchez hasn’t put distance between himself and Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch. All three have been inconsistent, following good stretches with some poor play.
“They’re all doing good stuff and then there’s struggles at times,” coach Gary Kubiak said after Thursday morning’s practice. “It’s very, very competitive. I want to put a number of throws on each one of them (against the Bears). That’s going to have a lot to do with a decision.”
The Dallas Cowboys are in no rush to get a veteran quarterback behind Tony Romo, even though executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones has said they want to add one after Kellen Moore broke his right ankle in training camp in Oxnard, California.
Dallas was in on the pursuit of free agent Nick Foles a day after Moore’s injury in practice Tuesday, but the former NFC East rival in Philadelphia agreed to a deal with Kansas City.
For now, the Cowboys will give longer looks to a pair of young players with no NFL experience: rookie fourth-round pick Dak Prescott and second-year player Jameill Showers, who spent most of last season on the practice squad.
Prescott ran the first team in practice Thursday while Romo took the day off.
Ravens rookie out
Ravens rookie defensive end Bronson Kaufusi will miss the 2016 season after breaking his left ankle during practice in Owings Mills, Maryland.
The injury occurred when another player fell on Kaufusi’s leg during a non-live drill. Kaufusi could not put any weight on the leg and left the field on a cart midway through the practice.
Kaufusi, a third-round pick out of Brigham Young, was competing with veterans Lawrence Guy and Brent Urban for playing time at defensive end after Chris Canty was released in the offseason.
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