After the first two weeks of training camp, the Carolina Panthers appear to be settling into the new formula for success the team hopes will turn the franchise around according to Head Coach Matt Rhule in a virtual press conference on Friday. "First competitive practice - I thought it was spirited, fast, I like coaching those kinds of teams," Rhule said.
The Panthers still remain one of six teams in the NFL where no players have tested positive for Covid-19. The league's slow rap up to the season is likely a big part of that statistic. The slower pace has had some positive effects on all of the rookies - including Rhule. The first-year players have had an easier time with absorbing the playbook as well as other nuances of NFL life - a good sign for first-round pick Derrick Brown and other rookies such as Yetur Gross-Matos and Jeremy Chinn. "I've been really pleased with the rookies."
"I really like them coming and having time just to life, just to run, just to sit in meetings ...they're not overwhelmed."
Coach Rhule has seen the blessings of the slower schedule with regard to his own learning curve. Still in a practice-only mode instead of prepping for what would normally be the first pre-season game has been one such gift. "It gave me a sense of reality."
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who previously held back the coaching staff from playing music in practice in order for the players to be more focused during their sessions continued that process. It has had a huge impact on how the other veterans have stepped up to help younger players make adjustments and is fast becoming part of the Carolina culture - a point of emphasis that has been pleasing for Rhule as he works though the early stages of his plans. "My point is to the young guys you have no excuse to say how do I take care of my body."
"You can see Shaq, you can see Tre, you can see McCaffrey ...why wouldn't everyone say I want to be like him."
As the regular season draws closer, the biggest question remaining is how the team will get the much needed game experience that would normally be garnered in pre-season games.
"We try to do a lot of stuff versus each other so we can really see the competition in everybody."