Jon Beason picks off Cam Newton in return to practice

Carolina Panthers middle linebacker Jon Beason picked off a Cam Newton pass during 11-on-11 drills in minicamp on Tuesday, winning a small but important victory for a player on the comeback trail.

Beason -- who ruptured his Achilles' tendon in Week 1 of last season -- participated in team drills for the first time this spring after being limited to individual drills and walk-throughs during organized team activities.

"It was good to see him moving around," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said, according to The Charlotte Observer.

"Really, the biggest thing was just his conditioning," Rivera went on. "He was winded. He's done all the installation stuff. But he was out there. And you could see he had a little adrenaline rush going. He was all fired up to get that last extra set of reps. He (asked) out just because he was gassed."

Having Beason on the field had to be a big lift for the Panthers, who were forced to play the majority of last season without the quarterback of their defense. Rivera said Beason's interception of Newton provided a glimpse of his special skill-set.

"A natural play," Rivera said. "Somebody else might not make that play. But I think guys with his kind of his experience and his kind of ability make that. And that's what he saw. He made a nice move on the ball and a nice play."

The Panthers will give Beason every opportunity to slide back into his former role, but first-round pick Luke Kuechly could be a tempting option for the coaching staff if Beason is slow to return to form.

“I feel great,” Beason said, looking skyward. “It’s a nice day – not so sunny.”

“We’re preparing to be champions. That’s the goal every day,” Beason said. “Guys are buying in, and we keep taking baby steps toward winning it.”

Ron Rivera wisely is scaling back Beason’s pressure early on to give him the best chance to succeed later on. The coaching staff is going to unleash these guys during training camp after they have had as much rest as possible, then the Panthers will see what they have cooking.

“They literally told me the day before practice, because if they had told me way out that they planned to keep me on the sideline during OTAs, I probably would have been upset about it,” Beason said. “But now I’m just taking it in, listening and realizing it’s for the better.

“I feel really good. I’m just doing as told, and for now my role is staying on the sideline and making sure I’m ready to go in July for camp.”

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