CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Panthers leader returned to the field Thursday. Quarterback Cam Newton practiced for the first time since undergoing ankle surgery on March 19, working in 7-on-7 drills during the teams final day of minicamp. Newton said he felt sluggish on his first day back. "My mind was moving faster than my body," Newton said. Newton said his left ankle is not yet fully recovered. However, he expects to be close to full speed when training begins July 25. "Im feeling better than I thought I would at this point," Newton said. Coach Ron Rivera said Newton was a little high on his passes, but thats expected having been out for so long. The 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback has thrown some passes on the side during recent weeks, but this was his first time working in live drills. "He talked about feeling like hed been cooped up and finally getting a chance to spread his wings a little bit," Rivera said. "He made some good decisions, made the right reads. Just didnt deliver the ball where he needed to. That will come with time. The healthier he gets, the better he gets, the more hell be in tune with what he needs to do." Rivera said Newton was cleared to practice medically Wednesday, but none of Newtons teammates knew hed practice until he took the field Thursday. The coach said he felt it was important for Newton to practice once before the start of training camp. "It just shows the team that hes coming, hes getting ready and hes working hard to get himself ready," Rivera said. "It was good to see his teammates see him out there." Said Newton: "Today is a step forward. Moving forward, this doesnt stop for me. I have to report back here during this off-season to try to get back to 100 per cent so I can be on schedule during training camp." Carolinas wide receiver position underwent major changes this off-season, so Thursday was Newtons first chance to throw passes in a live practice to guys like Jerricho Cotchery, Jason Avant, Kelvin Benjamin and Tiquan Underwood. Center Ryan Kalil said having Newton sit out most of OTAs and minicamp is not ideal, but feels like hell have plenty of time to develop chemistry with his new group of receivers. Kalil points to Newtons rookie season in 2011 when he didnt have any OTAs or minicamp to fine tune his skills because of the NFL lockout. But Newton still went on to win Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year honours. "He played pretty well that season with a bunch of guys he hadnt thrown to before," Kalil said. "So Im not worried." Rivera said the next hurdle for Newton to clear is running. Newton, 25, has been doing most of his running inside on an underwater treadmill to alleviate any added stress on the ankle. Offensive co-ordinator Mike Shula is expected to limit Newtons reps with running plays when training camp arrives. "Were not going to force anything," Rivera said. "Weve already told the doctors they control the situation." Newton has started all 48 games for the Panthers over the last three seasons. But hes one of only a handful of returning players who are guaranteed a starting spot on offence. The Panthers still have questions to answer at both tackle spots, left guard and right guard and at all of the wide receiver positions. "Competition is healthy," Rivera said. Cheap Jordan 1 For Sale . They started shooting the puck. Joe Pavelski had a hat trick to move into a tie for second in the NHL in goals and the Sharks beat Philadelphia 7-3 Thursday night in the first game for both teams following the Olympic break. Air Jordan 1 Outlet Online . Knapp defeated American Alison Riske 6-3, 7-5 to secure Italys victory in the best-of-five series. 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When Kiffins Trojans trudged home to that same airport early Sunday morning after another loss, athletic director Pat Haden couldnt wait another minute to end the divisive coachs tumultuous tenure. USC fired Kiffin hours after a 62-41 loss at Arizona State that dropped the Trojans to 3-2 overall and 0-2 in the Pac-12. The loss was the seventh in 11 games for a powerhouse program still struggling under the cumulative effect of NCAA sanctions, but unwilling to accept such a dramatic decline. "Its never the perfect time to do these things, but I thought it was the right time," Haden said. Ed Orgeron will be USCs interim head coach for the final eight games of the season before Haden chooses a permanent successor for one of college footballs highest-profile jobs. Orgeron, Kiffins assistant head coach and top recruiter, is the former Mississippi head coach. Haden broke the news to Kiffin in a 3 a.m. meeting at the Trojans private airport terminal, but not before a 45-minute chat in which Kiffin tried to change Hadens mind. Haden didnt hire Kiffin, but had been firmly behind the coach in public until Saturday, when the Trojans matched the most points allowed in school history. "He did a lot of things well under some very difficult circumstances here," said Haden, who also fired mens basketball coach Kevin ONeill during the season last January. "No one could have worked harder. He did a lot of the things we asked. Graduated players, never had compliance issues ... and he really worked under some very difficult NCAA sanctions, theres no doubt about it." Kiffin ran a competent program despite the loss of 30 scholarships over a three-season stretch that ends in 2015. But even Kiffin acknowledged he wasnt winning enough in the last two seasons at a school with USCs pedigree, and he also created off-the-field troubles ranging from ethically questionable tactics to pointless squabbles with media. "Lane did negotiate some of these things remarkably well," Haden said. "I have supported Lane with my heart and soul for 3 1/2 years and gave him every opportunity. He wasnt given a fair hand in a lot of ways. I said all along, we graded on the curve, but we failed on the curve, too." The Trojans are off this week before returning Oct. 10 at the Coliseum against Arizona, giving Orgeron time to evaluate what can be done to salvage the season with the toughest matchups on USCs schedule still looming. Kiffin went 28-15 in parts of four seasons in his self-described dream job, but USC is 0-2 in conference play for the first time since 2001 after losses to Arizona State and Washington State -- and the record only partly captures the discontent of USCs fans and alumni. The Trojans were unimpressive on offence even in their three victories this season, stoking unease around a school with sky-high expectations even at the tail end of crippling NCAA penalties stemming from coach Pete Carrolls tenure. Kiffin received withering criticism for persisting in calling the Trojans offensive plays himself well into the schools second straight poor offensive season. The Trojans lost their home opener 10-7 to the Cougars earlier this month, and Coliseum fans serenaded USC repeatedly with chants of "Fire Kiffin!" USC has been in a slow tailspin since going 10-2 and beating Oregon in 2011, the last year of its bowl ban. After starting as the preseason No. 1 last year, the Trojans finished 7-6 and out of the rankings -- the first preseason No. 1 in nearly a half-century to fall so far -- followed by this seasons disappointments. "I think it could easily be asked, Why not last year after the 7-6 season?" Haden said. "What do you know now that you didnt know after a 7-6 season? The rationale was the prior year, Lane had won 10 games. We thought, and (were) hoping that last year was an aberration. We felt we could rebound, make some changes, and indeed, Lane did. ... But at the end of the day, we just werent making the progress I felt we needed to make." The firing comes less than five months after Haden said Kiffin had "been as good as he can be" in the face of USCs sanctions. Before this season began, Haden said he was "100 per cent" behind the embattled Kiffin. "We support our coaches 100 per cent until theyre no longer our coaches," Haden said.dddddddddddd "Why would you support a coach 85 per cent?" The 52-year-old Orgeron went 10-25 in three seasons at Ole Miss, but that failed tenure did little to diminish his stature as a bulldog recruiter and defensive line coach. He coached alongside Kiffin at Tennessee before following his friend back to USC. Orgeron, a Louisiana native with a thick Cajun accent, might sound a bit out of place in Los Angeles, but hes a popular assistant coach and a USC devotee after 11 years over two tenures at the school. "Its an unfortunate day today that a coach got let go, but we understand the circumstances," Orgeron said. "I want to tell you were here as a staff to answer the bell. Were all accountable for what happened as a staff and as players. Us Trojans know how to do it." Orgeron said Clay Helton will be his offensive co-ordinator and the Trojans play-caller. Helton, USCs quarterbacks coach and passing game co-ordinator, has been with the Trojans since Kiffin returned in 2010. Most players found out about Kiffins dismissal by text messages in the middle of the night. The players have the next two days off before returning to practice Wednesday. "Well try to move forward now and focus on these next eight games, really bonding as a Trojan family and getting these wins," offensive lineman Marcus Martin said. Like the precocious Kiffins other two head coaching jobs, his USC tenure had an abrupt, messy exit. The Trojans former co-offensive co-ordinator was an NFL head coach at age 31, a head coach in the Southeastern Conference at 33 and USCs head coach at 34. If there was a consistent trend to those stops with the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee and the Trojans, it was turmoil. With Oakland, he lasted only 20 games as an overmatched head coach before his departure became a public feud with Al Davis, the late Raiders owner. He then infuriated Volunteers fans when he left after just 14 months to head back to the Trojans. Former USC athletic director Mike Garrett hired Kiffin away from Tennessee to replace Seattle Seahawks coach Carroll, the architect of USCs dynasty over the previous decade. Kiffin was an assistant under Carroll, eventually running the Trojans offence alongside Steve Sarkisian, now Washingtons coach. Kiffin had nothing to do with the misdeeds committed under Carroll and Garrett, who was swiftly dismissed and replaced by Haden. The coach still faced enormous expectations at USC -- especially last season, when the Trojans started out ranked No. 1 in the country with quarterback Matt Barkley and star receivers Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. USC lost five of its last six games, including the Sun Bowl, and Kiffin parted ways with his father, defensive guru Monte Kiffin. The scholarship restrictions gradually eroded the Trojans depth, and last seasons struggles clearly hurt the vaunted recruiting power of Kiffin and Orgeron. Between the sanctions and injuries, the Trojans played at Arizona State on Saturday night with 56 recruited scholarship players, well below its limit of 75 and the standard 85. Kiffin didnt help several strange decisions. Last year, USC was reprimanded by the Pac-12 for underinflating footballs before a loss to Oregon. Kiffin also was criticized for switching jersey numbers on players in an apparent attempt to deceive the Trojans opponents. Kiffin even closed USCs practices to the public after years of transparency under Carroll, who embraced USCs tradition of raucous open workouts. This season, Kiffin also closed his practices to the media. He then dithered on his choice of a starting quarterback, waiting until the third game to select Cody Kessler over Max Wittek. The offence has been largely terrible this season, but Kiffin was finally undone by another dreadful game by his defence, which had been solid under new co-ordinator Clancy Pendergast until Arizona State piled up 612 yards. USCs next game is in 11 days, giving the Trojans time to regroup and heal. Orgeron still plans to hit the recruiting trail for a school in transition. "I want our guys to believe and have a little fun," Orgeron said. "One of the things well do as a staff is get really close to our players, circle the wagons a little bit and have some fun for these next eight games, and let the chips fall where they may." 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