Jon Beason had pieces of grass stuck to his shoulders after practice Monday. Sweat dripped from his face. He was breathing hard – and he was grinning.
Beason looked good in his second straight practice Monday, and my bet is the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker will play at least a little bit Thursday night at Baltimore against the Ravens in the Panthers’ third preseason game.
“You know what?” Beason said. “I’m just happy to be back out there. I don’t care about what shape, what I’d do right, what I do wrong -- I just miss the grind. Being with my teammates, man. Messing around. Hanging in the huddle. You know what I mean? It’s long overdue.”
Beason has played in only five of the Panthers’ past 32 regular-season games, so any optimistic pronouncements about his condition must be treated with caution. He is coming off microfracture knee surgery, always a tricky process.
But he looked good Monday. I was impressed he ran as well as he did on a very damp field, cutting quickly and running extra sprints after practice. He intercepted Jimmy Clausen once in a team drill. He wasn’t unbelievable – remember, he is adjusting to playing weakside linebacker with Luke Kuechly now permanently installed in the middle. But Beason was good enough that coach Ron Rivera was thinking about all sorts of possibilities about how to get Beason on the field more after practice.
Beason said he wanted to “re-establish” himself this season and that he would "love to play" Thursday.
“You want to play fast,” he said. “You want to get back to the person you used to be. You’ve got to get over that fear. A lot of guys are afraid of it. But if it feels good, I’m going, and I’m going to go hard.”
Monday was a nice step toward that.
11 months ago