Updates from Friday, August 2
Jonathan Jones and Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer provide positive news on Benjamin:
Kelvin Benjamin back at practice in full pads #PanthersTC— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) August 2, 2014
Kelvin Benjamin says he felt fine, no problem with his knee.— Joe Person (@josephperson) August 2, 2014
Steve Reed of the Associated Press adds more:
Benjamin showed no lingering signs of a bone bruise in his left knee that kept him out of five days of practice. He made several nice grabs — one on a leaping grab in traffic on a deep ball along the left sideline and another on a crossing route.
Coach Ron Rivera said Benjamin continues to impress him and the rookie picked up where he left off before the injury.
'Yes he did, and that was very pleasing,' Rivera said. 'It was a lot of fun to watch that.'
Updates from Friday, August 1
Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer has an update on Benjamin:
Rivera expects Kelvin Benjamin (knee) to practice tomorrow. He stayed after with QBs and WRs today— Jonathan Jones (@jjones9) August 1, 2014
Updates from Thursday, July 31
Ron Rivera spoke about Kelvin Benjamin's recovery with Steve Reed of the Associated Press:
Rivera says Kelvin Benjamin is progressing well after knee bone bruise. Will work with trainers later today.— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) July 31, 2014
Updates from Tuesday, July 29
Kelvin Benjamin spoke to the media on Tuesday and discussed his injury and his eventual return to the Panthers (via Steve Reed of the Associated Press):
Kelvin Benjamin said he woke up today "feeling like a new man." Said he hopes to participate in preseason games.— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) July 29, 2014
Benjamin offered no exact timetable for when he will return to practice field. Said he was relieved when heard about MRI results.— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) July 29, 2014
Kelvin Benjamin said he bruised the bone in his left knee when he hit the ground, not another player's knee as Ron Rivera had indicated..— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) July 29, 2014
Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer provides a statement from Panthers head coach Ron Rivera discussingBenjamin's injury status:
He rode the exercise bike early in practice, and later he could be found standing beside quarterback Cam Newton, quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey and/or behind the line of scrimmage watching during installation periods.
'What we're going to do is continue what he did today. He'll do stuff on the bike. He'll do a lot of non weight-bearing things on the knee. We'll do those types of things with him.'
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com previously provided a timetable for Benjamin's return to the Panthers:
Sounds like the time frame for #Panthers WR Kelvin Benjamin’s return from a bone bruise is about a week. Could have been much worse.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 29, 2014
Earlier, ESPN's David Newton reported when Benjamin will begin rehabbing his knee injury and also provided an image of the Panthers' rookie interacting with fans:
#Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin will be on the sidelines rehabbing his left knee today.— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) July 29, 2014
Carolina Panthers wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin will undergo an MRI later Monday to determine the amount of damage sustained to his knee in an on-field collision in Sunday's training camp practice.
The team categorized the MRI as "precautionary" in a release:
Kelvin Benjamin is not practicing today. He's getting a precautionary MRI after banging knees with a defensive back in practice yesterday.— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) July 28, 2014
Benjamin was later diagnosed with a bone bruise (via David Newton of ESPN):
#Panthers coach Rivera says rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin has bone bruise. Stable. Swelling. No time table.— David Newton (@DNewtonespn) July 28, 2014
Ron Rivera also gave a timetable for Benjamin's recovery (via the Panthers):
Benjamin's recovery should only be a matter of days per to Rivera. The team will work him back into practice once the swelling goes down.— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) July 28, 2014
Earlier, Rivera had commented on Benjamin's status before the full diagnosis (via the Panthers):
Rivera is very optimistic and noted that Benjamin finished practice yesterday. #PanthersCamp— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) July 28, 2014
Rivera later discussed Benjamin more in-depth with Bill Voth of BlackandBlueReview.com:
“We want to be smart with it,” Rivera said after practice. “He came in this morning and (head trainer Ryan Vermillion) just wanted to be careful with him.”
“Young guys need as many reps and they can get,” Rivera said. “There’s an old saying, ‘If you can get 5,000 reps you can be ready to play.’ So we want to get him as many as we can.”
As of noon Monday, the Panthers were still waiting to hear back on the MRI. But the feeling Monday morning was there wasn’t much to be concerned about — yet.
“It could just be one of those things where if he had iced it right away and not finished (Sunday’s) practice, maybe it would have been better. If it’s negative we’ll just keep on rolling. I’m optimistic that is what it’s going to be.”
Benjamin, 23, was the Panthers' first-round pick in May's draft. The former Florida State standout made 54 receptions for 1,011 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, serving as Heisman winner Jameis Winston's top target.
The Panthers drafted Benjamin with the hope he'll become the No. 1 target Cam Newton lacked last season. Veteran Steve Smith, Newton's nominal top wide receiver for his career, was surprisingly released this offseason. Though starting to show noticeable signs of aging at 35, Smith spent his first 13 seasons in Carolina and was still Newton's most reliable weapon on the roster.
Beyond Benjamin, Panthers management did not do much in finding a replacement. Jerricho Cotchery and Jason Avant are currently slated to lead the team's depth chart. While both are respected veterans around the league and have solid seasons under their belt, neither Cotchery nor Avant can stretch the field or realistically lead a top-tier offense.
While he's raw, the Panthers rolled the dice on Benjamin knowing their roster lacked game-changing talent. Running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have dealt with bouts of injury and ineffectiveness since their heyday as perhaps the NFL's most feared backfield duo. Greg Olsen is among the best pass-catching tight ends in football, but he's not of the same strata as a Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski.
The Carolina offense projects at the moment as Newton being the lone difference maker on an island. That narrative could shift, however, if Benjamin becomes the player the coaching staff says he's been since arriving.
“He’s everything we thought he would be,” coach Rivera told reporters at minicamp. “We’re not in pads. But watching his route running, watching him catch the ball, make the adjustments, track the ball—all those types of things were really good to see.”
Joe Pearson of the Charlotte Observer notes Carolina needs the MRI to come back negative:
Benjamin MRI being described as precautionary. Panthers better hope so.— Joe Person (@josephperson) July 28, 2014
Assuming the Panthers are correct in their initial assessment, it will be interesting to see if this affect's Benjamin's status for the preseason opener. Carolina doesn't play until Aug. 8 against the Buffalo Bills, so he'd have nearly two weeks of recovery time. Being precautious is usually the best answer in the preseason, but Rivera and Co. have to be eager to get Benjamin reps with Newton.
Either way, the team will await the MRI results with bated breath.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.