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How Panthers coach Dave Canales handles players missing OTAs, plus a Miles Sanders update

The optional phase of the Carolina Panthers’ offseason workouts will come to a close this week — meaning a handful of players will likely emerge next week for the mandatory minicamp.

Starting kicker Eddy Pineiro is among that handful, for instance. Offseason defensive signees Jadeveon Clowney and K’Lavon Chaisson are, too.

For Panthers head coach Dave Canales, he’s taken a particular approach to the “who’s-here, who’s-not-here” cycle — including how he can rate certain position groups at this point.

He offered a look inside his process on Tuesday.

“I kind of say this with two hands,” Canales, the first-year head coach, told reporters Tuesday. “One, all these guys know how to play with pads, but we just don’t know what we have until we can get into those competitive type settings together as a group, communicating, talking through stuff. So of course, as we add our players back in during our minicamp, during our training camp, that’s an opportunity for us to really get the communication that we want.”

“But in the meantime,” Canales continued, “what an opportunity. What a great opportunity for the guys who are here, who are working every day, who are hearing the messaging — not just from the offense, defense, special teams, but from me, as far as who we want to be as a team. So I really thank the guys who are here. And we’ve had a great turnout for the most part to be able to build the team that we want to be.”

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr., right, speaks with wide receiver Cam Sims, left, during the team’s OTA practice on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr., right, speaks with wide receiver Cam Sims, left, during the team’s OTA practice on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.

Absences, for whatever reason, pose natural challenges. Personnel at certain position groups aren’t fully stocked and that renders the snapshot of what Canales and his staff know a incomplete.

At the same time, as Canales said (and has said many times), it also creates opportunity. The fact that two key pass rushers are absent in Clowney and DJ Wonnum — who’s still on the mend from a quad injury that he suffered at the end of last season — give important reps to guys like Eku Leota and Luiji Vilain. And Canales has taken notice, saying that they both worked with defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero last year and have fit back in quickly and smoothly.

Has he been in touch with Pineiro or Clowney, who hasn’t attended any OTA events? Does he expect them back to camp?

“I have not asked them,” Canales said. “Because what I don’t want to do is: I don’t want to send a message that I’m pressuring them to be here at all. This is voluntary. And so what I have done is I’ve reached out and just touched base with them, just making sure that they’re doing alright and just hearing about what their life has looked like.”

He reaches out once a week, just so “we don’t just have this huge personal absence, of not connecting.And from the reports I’ve gotten, the coaches have also had chances to reach out and connect with guys, and they know that something good is happening here.”

Carolina’s mandatory minicamp runs from June 11-13. Training camp begins in late July.

Carolina Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson, left, stands along a sideline with his teammates during the team’s OTA practice on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.
Carolina Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson, left, stands along a sideline with his teammates during the team’s OTA practice on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.

Here’s what else you need to know after Tuesday’s session of OTAs.

Miles Sanders misses practice with heel injury

One player who was present at the Panthers facility but didn’t participate in on-field drills on Tuesday was running back Miles Sanders.

Canales told reporters that Sanders had a heel injury from a couple weeks ago “flare up on him a little bit,” and that holding him out of activities Tuesday was precautionary.

“He’s been doing some running on the side, getting treatment, all that,” Canales said. “He’s here. He’s locked in. So just another precautionary measure.”

Sanders is a part of a running back room that has grown since Canales’ hiring in January. Sanders, who’s less than 24 months removed from a 1,000-yard season with the Philadelphia Eagles, is part of a group that includes Chuba Hubbard (last year’s starter), Jonathon Brooks (second-round draft pick from Texas), Raheam Blackshear and offseason acquisition Rashaad Penny.

Sanders signed with the Panthers last offseason on a four-year, $25.4 million deal.

Panthers preseason schedule drops

The Panthers announced their preseason schedule Tuesday. The three-game slate features one home game and two road games and stretches from mid- to late-August. The games:

Carolina Panthers guard Robert Hunt, left, waits for drills to resume during the team’s OTA practice on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.
Carolina Panthers guard Robert Hunt, left, waits for drills to resume during the team’s OTA practice on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.

Quick hits

Canales, ever the compelling storyteller, was asked for his reaction to the Bank of America Stadium renovation plans — and he paid homage to his mentor, Pete Carroll, and then waxed poetic about the possibilities he sees with the upgrades.

A snippet of what he said: “I saw all the renderings. It became public. And as you get to know me, it’s like I have this huge possibilities mindset of just picturing what it would be like to have a championship-caliber team: a team that the Carolinas could be proud of. ... So as much as I get focused and excited about what’s happening, it just brings me right back to this practice today, and we got a long way to go to be able to play the kind of ball that we want to.”

Xavier Legette, the Panthers’ first-round draft pick, was present at practice but didn’t participate again. He suffered a hamstring injury and was held out of activities out of precaution, Canales said last week.

Carolina Panthers wide receiver Xavier Legette, center, speaks with cornerback Jaycee Horn, right, during the team’s OTA practice on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Xavier Legette, center, speaks with cornerback Jaycee Horn, right, during the team’s OTA practice on Tuesday, June 4, 2024.