SPARTANBURG -- The Carolina Panthers have resisted the recent trend that now has 17 of 32 NFL teams holding training camp at their home facilities, up from five of 31 teams in 2001.
While tight end Jeff King said since he didn't like living in a dormitory when he was in college so "I certainly don't love it now," he sees the benefits of spending three weeks together at Wofford College.
"If you were at Bank of America Stadium and you had two hours or three hours (off), you could probably sneak home and get a nap in," King said Tuesday. "But just by location, you hang out with the guys and get to know them a little bit better and build a little chemistry up away from the field."
Quarterback Matt Moore said the camaraderie built during camp was one of the first topics coach John Fox brought up when the team reported on July 28.
"It's not like guys when we're done with practice and meetings and guys get in their cars and go home. Guys are in here, guys are in the dorms and everybody is together," Moore said. "Whether you're Steve Smith, Jordan Gross or a free-agent rookie, we're all hanging out. You need those things to be a successful football team."
The location of camp -- steamy Spartanburg -- is another element that drains players. There have been numerous practices this year when the heat index was well above 100 degrees.
King hinted the Panthers' success late in the season -- they're 10-4 in December and January regular season games in the past three seasons -- could be the result of the practice time in extreme heat and humidity.
"We've played well in December, late in the year. I think that comes from being a little mentally tough," King said. "Whether you build that in Spartanburg or throughout the season, I can't put my finger on it."
Still, players were counting the hours until they can say goodbye to dorm life. The team breaks camp after Wednesday's 9 a.m. practice -- the last of 25 workouts here.
"Training camp is training camp," King said. "It's a necessary evil."
Taking it slow
Panthers receiver Steve Smith wasn't dressed for practice, but still ran some routes and caught balls in the walkthrough portion of the workout in his second day back from a broken left forearm.
While his teammates were in full pads, Smith was in shorts and wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers cap backward as he caught passes from Matt Moore in plays with no defenders.
"We'll just get him back in football shape and he'll be day-to-day from here forward," coach John Fox said.
Panthers safety Sherrod Martin left practice early with what Fox called a groin strain.
Running back DeAngelo Williams returned after a two-day absence for the birth of his child.
SECONDARY COMPETITION: There appears to be tight competition for the last few slots in the secondary on Carolina's 53-man roster.
The Panthers normally keep eight or nine defensive backs. Starters Chris Gamble, Richard Marshall, Sherrod Martin, Charles Godfrey and nickel back Captain Munnerlyn are assured slots, leaving a group of seven jockeying for jobs.
Gamble said he's been impressed with the play of fellow seventh-round picks Robert McClain and R.J. Stanford, who made a diving interception in practice Tuesday.
"I look at Captain and he was a seventh-round pick and he's been showing up and making plays. And I can see the same thing in McClain and Stanford," Gamble said. "They aren't too physical, but they have ball skills and they are technique sound. They are looking good out there to be seventh rounders."
Meanwhile, C.J. Wilson scored Carolina's lone touchdown in the first exhibition game when he returned a fumble 31 yards for a touchdown.
"He's stepping up. He had a touchdown last week and is making a lot of plays," Gamble said. "I see a lot in C.J."
The rest of the group includes sixth-round pick Jordan Pugh, Marcus Hudson, Brian Witherspoon and Aaron Francisco, who was expected to be a major contributor on special teams but has been sidelined most of camp with a hamstring injury.
Pugh has two diving pass breakups on Tuesday.
EXTRA POINTS: Everette Brown continued to work with the starters at RDE with Tyler Brayton (ankle) sidelined. ... The Panthers again practiced on Wofford's stadium field because the three practice fields remain waterlogged from recent rains.