It was the first day of the rest of the 2013 football season for the Carolina Panthers as they checked into their new surroundings at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina Thursday morning. Virtually everyone got their own room, except the rookies who arrived yesterday. They will be sharing.
Armed with pillows (quarterback Derek Anderson apparently bought out Bed Bath and Beyond before reporting), blankets (cornerback DJ Moore said the old school wool ones in his room looked like it had been washed a hundred times and were peeling like snake skin) and rugs (linebacker Luke Kuechly said that was all he needed other than his bed and a clock), it is a ritual most look forward to. For Tight end Richie Brockel it all about the basics, a yoga mat and some clothes.
“It’s always good to get back in the swing of things, get back into a routine after a nice summer break,” Brockel said. “The new dorms are awesome; I get my own room this year which is nice. It’s a little more of a walk to the cafeteria but it’s a nice warm-up in the morning.”
The smiles that everyone carried with them on day one will drastically change on Friday evening when the first full workout takes place following the Back To Football Kickoff Party that kicks off at the Gibbs Stadium Plaza from 4:30-6:15 p.m. and following practice from 8:30-9:00 p.m.
The second practice will take place on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and will feature Play 60 Family Fun Day. Activities include the Play 60 Kids Combine, appearances by the TopCats and Sir Purr, face painting and more from 1:30-3:30 p.m.
For the most part the talk was about building on the way the Panthers finished up in 2012, the OTAs and mini-camp and getting off to a good start.
“It’s a great opportunity to get better and learn every day and take advantage of every opportunity given to you,” said defensive tackle Frank Kearse. “It’s Spartanburg. I love Spartanburg. It’s nice and hot. Good football weather. Nothing else to do but play football.”
Not everyone was enamored with the heat even though the temperature Thursday morning was in the low 80s.
“Hot, humid and hot. And hot again,” joked Kenjon Barner when asked about his first impression of Spartanburg. The rookie running back feels like a freshman in college and didn’t bring anything in order to decompress after a long day of drills. “Your best friend is sleep during practice. That’s what I did in college. [I] got as much rest as I could to get ready for the next day and I’ll do the same thing here.”
Barner, a 5-foot-9, 190-pounder who was drafted in the sixth round (182nd overall) out of Oregon, has an uphill battle to make the team because the running back position is one of the strongest areas on the Panthers. “My expectations are to just go out, work hard and go out and show these guys that I deserve to be here and can play with these guys.”
The one player who is probably enjoying his time on the Wofford campus is D.J. Moore. The Vanderbilt alum and former Chicago Bears cornerback is entering his fifth NFL after signing on with the Panthers as an unrestricted free-agent and begins his first training camp right in his own back yard of Spartanburg.
“I’m down here all summer anyway, y’all could have come up to the house,” he said drawing laughs. “I’m just getting used to the coaches and how they want it done and getting used to teammates. I’m just ready to run.”
Moore was asked if he thought he would be a fan favorite here and he responded the way you might expect, and with a huge grin. “If I am not a fan favorite then I’d be upset.” Then there was the inevitable question if he was going to be a tour guide for his new team to show them all the hot spots in town. “I have to find the fun spots. That will be the hard part.”
The first day of the rest of the season for the Carolina Panthers was peaceful and calm. Day two the real work begins in earnest. Football is back!