Panthers top 2 draft picks unable to finish practice

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Panthers wasted no time throwing the playbook — and a whole lot of passes — at wide receiver Devin Funchess on the first day of rookie minicamp.

In fact, Funchess got so worn out he wound up leaving the afternoon practice session with some leg cramps and had to get an IV.

He said afterward he's fine and plans to practice Saturday.

"This is a jump coming from 55 (degrees) to 82, so it hit me kind of hard today," Funchess said with a sheepish smile, a little embarrassed that he didn't make it through his first day of practice. "My body has to get used to this."

Meanwhile, Carolina's first-round draft pick, linebacker Shaq Thompson, left halfway through the afternoon session with a strained hamstring after slipping on the grass field. He will be reevaluated on Saturday, coach Ron Rivera said.

Rivera says he's a "little concerned" about Thompson's hamstring injury, mostly because he knows the 25th overall pick is going to miss some installation time at OTAs while finishing up his college classes at Washington.

The Panthers plan to use Funchess quite a bit this season because of his versatility.

One of the reasons they moved up 16 spots in the second round to draft the Michigan wideout is because of his high football IQ and potential to play all three of Carolina's wide receiver positions.

On Friday, Funchess lined up all over the field and Rivera said offensive coordinator Mike Shula purposely designed passes meant to go to Funchess.

"That is one of the things we really liked about him — how quickly he grasped what we do," Rivera said in reference to the team's pre-draft meeting with Funchess. "Knowing that he was able to regurgitate the three different wide receiver positions we have gave us a lot of confidence in who he is."

Funchess said recalling three different positions is "pretty simple" for him.

"I'm used to it from being back at school and being the mismatch," Funchess said of playing at Michigan.

General manager Dave Gettleman seemed determined to draft Funchess.

Although he stated in a press conference after the completion of the first round that he had no intentions of trading his second or third round picks, Gettleman quickly changed his mind when two receivers went off the board in the first eight picks of round two.

Gettleman traded away the team's second, third and seventh round picks to move up from No. 57 to 41 to get Funchess, who they had rated as a first-round pick.

Gettleman said he feared if the Panthers had stayed put at No. 57 he would have missed out on a chance to give offensive coordinator Mike Shula — as well as quarterback Cam Newton — help in the passing game.

The Funchess pick drew immediate comparisons to last year's first-round draft pick Kelvin Benjamin because of his size.

But the 6-foot-4, 232-pound Funchess is not nearly as physically imposing as the wide-shouldered 6-foot-5, 240-pound Benjamin.

And, he's a much different player.

"Funchess is a little more exact in terms of underneath, inside routes," Rivera said.

Rivera said Funchess also has more vertical speed than Benjamin, although he doesn't have as big of a catch radius. Benjamin repeatedly used his height to outleap opponents and make big catches last season, setting franchise rookie records for receptions (73), yards receiving (1,008) and touchdowns (nine).

"It will be interesting to see how those two, when they get on the field together, complement each other," Rivera said.

Throw in Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, possession receiver Jerricho Cotchery and deep threat Ted Ginn Jr. and the Panthers feel they've upgraded a passing attack that finished 19th in the league last season.

NOTES: The Panthers announced that running back Cameron Artis-Payne signed his contract Friday, leaving Funchess as the team's only unsigned draft pick.



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