Fan Fest gets a little more fan friendly each year for the Panthers. They had a crowd of 20,134 for the annual free practice at Bank of America Stadium Saturday afternoon, and many of the star players (Cam Newton, Greg Hardy and Luke Kuechly among them) stuck around a long time for autographs afterward. The roster cards given to fans were useful and sturdy. It was hot but a breeze swirled for much of the practice, making the temperature bearable. A nice afternoon.
-- One thing I would add at the end of the Fan Fest practice: Give coach Ron Rivera, Steve Smith or Newton a handheld microphone and have them simply talk for about 60 seconds and thank the fans for coming out. A simple thing to do – the Charlotte Bobcats have done a version of that for years – that would pay some dividends. Or have Mick Mixon interview each of them for two minutes each.
-- One thing I would subtract from practice: Newton catching punts. He tried to grab a couple of 60-yarders Saturday. It was cute and fun and all that, but you don’t want your star quarterback catching punts very often. It’s an easy way to jam or break a finger.
For the record, Newton fell on his face trying to catch the first one and missed. Then he bobbled but caught the second one and slung the ball high in the air in exultation.
-- Nice to see a few keepsake balls go into the stands. Captain Munnerlyn and Haruki Nakamura threw them into the crowd after their interceptions in team drills and Armanti Edwards did the same after a spectacular catch in the corner of the end zone over Munnerlyn. Edwards, once again, looked good.
-- Among the other players I thought had some fine moments Saturday: tight end Brandon Williams, cornerback Josh Norman, Nakamura and punter Brad Nortman. And kicker Graham Gano has an incredibly strong leg – no doubt he will have that job come Sept.8 and the home opener against Seattle.