Installment #28: Almost Time for Football
My Carolina Panthers got a little closer to playing football again when they began training camp for the 2021 season yesterday at Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC. These first practices are not in full pads, nor do they involve full contact as that segment of camp will start next week. Nevertheless, the team is on the field together for the first time since late May and early June. These are indeed real practices, heavy on instruction and installation and in front of fans. So when it is time for full padding and real hitting, the team will have a firm foundation as they prepare for what should be another exciting year.
The first four practices of training camp is officially called an “Acclimation period.” So a great deal of Wednesday’s work was individual drills, technique work, and some 7-on-7 time. Standouts include former Tennessee Titans defensive tackle DaQuan Jones. He was brought on in the offseason along with veteran cornerback A.J. Bouye to cement a young but threatening defense. There is also high hopes for returning players like Jeremy Chinn and Brian Burns.
Offensively, new quarterback Sam Darnold looked good but most of the throws he made were of the short to intermediate variety. With last year’s starting QB Teddy Bridgewater dealt to Denver in the offseason, Darnold is the projected leader and signal caller for the Panthers this year. So coach Matt Rhule and the team want to give him a chance to get used to his new squad. He’s already familiar with wide receiver Robby Anderson from their time together with the New York Jets. Also wideout DJ Moore is still there, along with running back Christian McCaffrey. The Panthers have a lot of work to do as far as their offensive line is concerned, but they will hopefully have some time to get it together. So we’ll see how things shake out on the offensive side of things as the summer goes on.
Brian Burns spent all offseason on the sidelines due to a shoulder surgery at the end of last year. He was still very much involved in workouts, high-fiving, chest bumping, and encouraging guys even though he could not practice. He was back on the field and ready to go Wednesday morning.
There was also major buzz around Christian McCaffrey, who just a day earlier received top running back ratings for the popular video game Madden 22. McCaffrey missed most of last season due to injuries and the Panthers were forced to use back-up running back Mike Davis and wideout/RB Curtis Samuel in his place. Mike Davis is gone to the Atlanta Falcons and Curtis Samuel now plays for the Washington Football Team. So hopefully, McCaffrey is able to stay on the field and have another all-star season.
It is only the beginning of watching players and sorting out what will be this season’s roster, but I am excited! It is almost football season again with training camps starting up all this week and the first pre-season game, the Hall of Fame Game, being played next Thursday. I spend most of the summer waiting for this time of year and it seemed to come fairly quick. Be interesting to see how things shake out for not only the Panthers, but all thirty-two teams. I have a feeling, my Panthers are going to have a better season than the last three years.