Chemistry Call: The Meeting That Helped Turned the Panthers Around

Schuyler Callihan

Shortly after the Carolina Panthers dropped their second straight game to open the season, cornerback Rasul Douglas reached out to head coach Matt Rhule and talked about what change needed to be made for this team to be successful. 

Chemistry was almost non-existent, effort at times was questionable, and the will to win just didn't seem to be there. Being one of the most experienced players on the defense, Douglas saw the signs early on and knew that this trend could not continue if they wanted to win and win now. 

The team held a meeting and just let everyone speak about who they are, what they like, their lifestyle, hobbies, family, where they come from and a variety of other things. This was to help eliminate chemistry being an issue on the field and so far, it has worked as the Panthers have rattled off three straight wins since this meeting took place.

"It was more about explaining whatever you felt on your heart to tell the guys about yourself," Douglas said. "Teddy [Bridgewater] got up there and talked about how his mom had cancer and just watching her go through that and her smiling and her being happy and her caring about him was bigger than anything. We also talked to one of the linemen where he said he had COVID and he couldn't be with his wife and his wife was pregnant and he couldn't be around her and the whole time he wasn't, he was thinking about the team. It was basically just expressing how we need to do it together and we need to know each other. If we are going to call each other a family, we've got to feel like family. From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. I'm here. I go home, I get two hours and then I'm going back to sleep to get ready for here, so it's like if I'm going to be here with you all day, I need to know you. I need to know who you are, I need to know how you think, so when I'm on the field I want to play for you."

While the meeting may not be the one single turning point of the season, it has certainly paid off and you can see it firsthand on the field every Sunday. Defensive coordinator Phil Snow talked about the growth he has seen in the last month. 

"I think this team is growing together right now. You've got to have some success too to have that happen and we're fortunate we've won three games in a row, but you can really see this group coming together on both sides of the football and special teams. It's fun to watch. When you get a little confidence, the confidence grows and so does everything else. It's just been fun to watch over the last month."

A lack of chemistry in football or any sport for that matter usually boils down to the players' negligence of wanting to form relationships with their teammates and understanding who they are as a person, not just a football player. These guys spend more time together than they do with their family, so if you have rock solid chemistry, you're going to get rock solid results. Unfortunately, the players were not afforded the opportunity to bond and get to know one another this offseason due to the pandemic. And even once players did make it to camp, it didn't just click right away as rookie defensive lineman Derrick Brown noted during Thursday's press conference.

"We weren't together for long and everybody kind of knew each other behind the IPad's. This year has been crazy, so we never got a chance to really get in here in the spring and early summer. Even my time coming in I really only got to meet a handful of guys at one time. We had to figure out us, we had to figure out the trust. The d-line and linebackers have to trust one another and the backend's got to trust us to be able to do our part and once we figured that out, now it seems like we're starting to play for one another more."

Head coach Matt Rhule has said time and time again about how this team doesn't have any egos and is a bunch that loves playing together. The more football they play, the better the chemistry will be and the better this team will be. The good thing is, the Panthers are 3-2 and are on a three-game winning streak while learning how to play alongside each other.

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