The Panthers took the practice field at Wofford College today for the first time in 2021. Head coach Matt Rhule addressed the media after practice and had a few things to say about the team and his expectations for training camp.
On the performance of the quarterbacks today:
"Seven on seven I thought they were really accurate. Seven on seven we completed a lot of balls. It's early in practice its a lot of first and second down underneath throws, stuff like that...I want the quarterbacks to have bad days...Growth only happens when you have adversity and struggle...at least out there I was pleased."
All eyes at Panthers' training camp will be on newcomer Sam Darnold. It's no secret to anyone that Darnold is under immense pressure to prove that he can be a solid starting quarterback in the NFL. Rhule being pleased with the quarterback's first day at practice is a positive sign. Hopefully, Darnold can translate success in practice to live game action in a couple of weeks.
On Sam Darnold being a team leader:
"He just has to worry about playing quarterback right now. We've got great leaders...we've got all these veteran guys. What I'm really looking for from Sam right now is the be the first guy in the building and the last guy to leave. I want him to just absolutely grind and out-work the competition...the more you're around the great quarterbacks, or the more you hear about them, their level of preparation sets a tone way beyond anything else. Sam looked like a guy that was very well prepared today. And that to me is how he's going to lead this team."
It seems like the Panthers won't be looking to the quarterback position for veteran leadership this season. Rhule was quick to take the burden of leadership off of Darnold's shoulders this morning and throw it onto the back of players that have been around the league or the team a little bit longer. Both the Panthers' offense and defense are loaded with veterans who have been around the block, and it seems that those guys will be the vocal leaders on and off the field, not Darnold.
On the team bringing in free agents for workouts today:
"We have some guys who are on different lists and stuff so we have the ability to bring some guys in. You know we're going to be a team that when we have space we're going to bring guys in and work them out. That's Fit's [Scott Fitterer] mentality, that's my mentality, so we're always going to keep a book of guys so as guys leave the team, as space opens up, as guys go on different lists, even if we don't sign them we have names of them."
Rhule was quick to echo Scott Fitterer's sentiment about being aggressive in trying out free agents. Fitterer said yesterday that the Panthers' are always looking to add players to every position, and the free agents working on the field behind Rhule during his media availability is a sign of that process being in motion.
On the effect Christian McCaffrey's absence on the offense last season:
"I hate looking back to last year too much. Obviously, Christian is a great, great, great player. One of the greatest in the league. And not having him changes what you can do and how you do it. I thought Mike did a great job coming in for him. But we're anxious to get Christian out there. He's a difference-maker. In the National Football League you only get so many difference-makers, and he's our difference-maker...I think he's a guy that can catch the football out of the backfield and run it at a high level. You're not having to substitute saying 'Hey put this guy in for this or put this guy in for that,' there's really nothing Christian can't do."
If there was any thought that the Panthers may limit McCaffrey's workload this year, Rhule seemed to shut that down today. Rhule is well aware of the versatile weapon that McCaffrey is and the Panthers are going to use him to his full potential. Rookie Chubba Hubbard will have some sort of role in the offense, but it looks like all systems go for McCaffrey.
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