The Carolina Panthers returned to a huge crowd at Bank of America Stadium this weekend to host their annual fan fest, with 20,070 loyal fans in attendance during the Panthers’ two hour training session. With the loud roars and chants from the fans, the Panthers were energized and pumped.
“It means that our fans are behind us. Now we have to do our part. We have to repay that support by playing some good football,” commented head coach Ron Rivera.
The afternoon started strong with key plays from both the offense and defense. Quarterback Cam Newton found an opportune moment and ran uncontested to the end zone during a short-yardage drill. Newton rewarded the cheering fans by tossing the football into the crowd; however, the second year quarterback was challenged by his teammates.
Linebacker Luke Kuechly and cornerback Nate Ness both had interceptions. Kuechly, Carolina’s ninth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, intercepted a pass intended for wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu. This occurred shortly after the rookie tended to a bloody nose.
Nate Ness, who was recently acquired on Aug 2, had two interceptions, three total within two practice days since joining the Panthers.
“We’re a team that wants our corners to play with their eyes on the ball. [Nate] seems to have success doing that,” Rivera added.
Rivera stressed the importance of increasing stability from all aspects of the game. The kickers were inconsistent as veteran Olindo Mare was booed after a poor performance, making two of his four field goals. Justin Medlock went 3 for 4, missing one from 50 yards.
Rivera believes that the Panthers can improve their game tremendously for the upcoming season. “We’re not anywhere near where we want to be,” Rivera stated. “This is a team that’s good, but we don’t want to be good, we want to be great. We have to be much more consistent than we were.”
Wide receiver Steve Smith and cornerback Chris Gamble both sat out of practice. Smith took his scheduled off day while Gamble was resting a sore groin muscle from Friday’s practice.
At the end of practice, Kuechly, Newton, and other players signed autographs for the fans.
The Panthers first scheduled preseason game is Saturday, Aug 11 when they host the Houston Texans.
By Cheri Cheng
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