Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers LB Thomas Davis anticipates contract extension before camp

Carolina Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis preemptively told a reporter Thursday that he didn’t have any information on his negotiations on a long-term extension.

And while the talks have not yet produced a signed contract, Davis remains hopeful a deal will be finalized before the start of training camp at the end of July.

“Sure, absolutely. That’s why we’re working on it, to try to get it done,” Davis said. “We’re not just working on it to say we’re working on it. I feel like it will be something that will be done probably before we go to camp, but we’ll see.”

Davis, 32, is entering the final year of a contract that will pay him $7.25 million this year, with a salary cap number of $9.9 million. The NFL’s reigning Man of the Year has said he would have retired rather than play for another team had the Panthers not picked up the two-year club option in 2013.

Davis has averaged 77 tackles a year since returning from the third ACL reconstruction on his right knee in 2012. The Panthers drafted his likely successor when they took former Washington linebacker Shaq Thompson with the 25th overall pick this year.

But Davis expressed confidence Thursday that the Panthers would present a fair deal.

“I feel like they will,” he said.

Tall tandem: Second-year receiver Kelvin Benjamin returned to practice this week after missing the first two weeks of organized team activities with a hamstring injury. Benjamin said he eased back into drills, but might do more at next week’s mandatory, three-day minicamp.

Benjamin, 6-5 and 245 pounds, set Panthers rookie records last season with 73 receptions for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s looking forward to teaming with second-round pick Devin Funchess (6-4, 225) to give Cam Newton one of the biggest receiving duos in the league.

“He’s a young player. He’s still learning. I’m still young, I’m still learning,” Benjamin said. “We’re very big receivers for Cam. We’ve just got to put the work in.”

Biding his time: Nate Chandler started the first 11 games at right tackle last season and has 19 career starts, but he feels a bit like an afterthought following the offseason additions of tackles Michael Oher and Jonathan Martin.

It doesn’t help that trainers have held Chandler out of OTAs after toe and knee surgeries late last season. But Chandler says he expects to be a factor in the tackle competition at training camp at Wofford.

“I’m never going to throw in the towel. That’s not who I am,” Chandler said. “So when I come back, you can look forward to it.”

Chandler, rated among the 17 worst tackles in the league last year by Pro Football Focus, is eager to get back in the mix.

“It’s not my call. If it was, I would probably be out there,” he said. “But I listen to (the trainers), and they know more than I do. I’m just patiently waiting.”

Observations

▪  Nickel corner Colin Jones made a great read to intercept Newton after getting beaten on the same play in Tuesday’s practice. Jones anticipated the slant route, leaped in front of Newton’s pass and ran down the sideline with Newton giving chase.

Jones, one of the fastest players on the team, said Newton would not have caught him in a game.

▪  No reporters were around to witness it, but secondary coach Steve Wilks was still raving Thursday about cornerback Josh Norman’s pass breakup from Wednesday’s practice. Wilks said Norman stretched out to knock away a Newton pass to Corey Brown on a post route.

“Philly had the ball in his hand, and Josh just laid out as he did against Cleveland (last season) and made a great play,” Wilks said. “I haven’t seen a play like that in the National Football League in my 10 years.”

Wilks believes Norman is on the verge of becoming one of the top corners in the league.

▪  Wilks, named assistant head coach in February, ran practice Thursday while Ron Rivera was in California for his daughter Courtney’s graduation from UCLA this weekend. Rivera is expected back in the office Monday.

▪  Defensive end Frank Alexander, who has been getting a lot of first-team reps, sat out with a groin injury, the extent of which is uncertain. Garry Peters, an undrafted corner from Clemson who has missed OTAs with a hamstring issue, was excused from practice for a family matter, Wilks said.

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