Beason catches ribbing on his first day at Panthers camp

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Jon Beason had only been on the field for a few minutes Monday when the barbs started.

"Let's see your fresh legs!" one teammate yelled.

"You haven't done anything for a week!" special teams coach Danny Crossman screamed.

But while the Carolina Panthers rookie was catching grief over his weeklong holdout, he also moved from the second team to the first before his first practice was over.

Then, as part of a rookie ritual, the linebacker carried the helmets of veterans Dan Morgan and Thomas Davis to the locker room.

"T.D. already told me, man, I've got a lot of making up to do," Beason said.

Beason ended his eight-day holdout Sunday and became a rich man, signing a five-year deal that included a $3.2 million signing bonus and $6 million total in guaranteed money. Later that night, he was meeting with linebackers coach Ken Flajole, poring over the playbook and trying to get caught up after missing 12 practices.

Beason caught a few hours of sleep and was one of the first players to hit the field Monday morning - then was gasping for air about halfway through the workout.

"You can do all the running you want but football shape is different," Beason said. "Putting the helmet and the shoulder pads on, it's heavy. But in a couple days, I'll be ready."

Beason, with Flajole at his side nearly the entire practice, was doing well enough that he switched to the starting unit at weakside linebacker near the end of workout, replacing James Anderson. Na'il Diggs, with whom Beason was expected to compete for the starting job, missed his sixth straight day due to a right hamstring injury.

"Every once in a while he'd miss some tempos that we operate at during different drills," coach John Fox said of Beason. "Other than schooling him up on some of that with pads on, he did fine."

And while Beason was the target of jabs over his holdout, there didn't appear to be much animosity among teammates, who were sweating through two-a-day practices while the Panthers and Beason's agent, Michael Huyghue, were feuding over how to distribute the contract's guaranteed money.

"You really do got to do what's best for your family," Morgan said. "I've got no hard feelings. I'm glad he's here and the thing is resolved. Everyone will forget about this in a week and we'll move on."

Morgan and Beason both played at Miami and met a couple of years ago when Morgan went back to the school for offseason workouts. Beason and Morgan talked a few times during the holdout, and Beason kept telling him how much he wanted to be with the team.

"Oh man, I just wanted to play football," Beason said. "I wish I could have come to camp and have let them handled that stuff while I was practicing. I mean, all I want to do is play football. So, from a business standpoint, you have to take care of your family, so that part of it is rough, but they don't even let you practice without a contract."

Now he's got one, and Beason claims he'll be up to speed mentally and physically to play in Saturday's preseason opener at the New York Giants.

Until then, the rookie can expect more ribbing.

"He had the audacity to tell me he was at the beach last week, too," Morgan said.

"I was staying by the beach. I didn't actually make it out there," Beason said. "My agent had me up in a hotel -- I didn't have a rental car or anything. An assistant came and picked me up, I worked out, then went back to the hotel. So I didn't do much."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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