I had the opportunity to cover Carolina Panthers training camp down in Spartanburg SC. Just like most of you all, fans were well aware of the looming expectations for this season. As quarterbacks warmed up on the far practice field, defensive units went through organized drill training on the near field, closest to the fans that were in attendance.
However, this year, the fans were more intrigued by what was happening on the defensive field rather than on the offensive practice field.
Comments were made such as, “Wow, look at his eye for the ball,” and “Id hate to be hit by him,” buzzed around the grass incline. In years past, the defensive comments made by my fellow Panthers fans may have had a bit of a sarcastic tone to them. This year however, fans are more excited than ever to see a healthy, hard hitting defensive unit. With the addition of Luke Kuechly, a healthy Jon Beason, and a leading tackler in James Anderson, fans cannot help but to await the start of the season.
After individual drills, the Panthers team played a few 15 minute periods of 7 vs. 7. All three quarterbacks (Newton, Anderson, and Clausen) took snaps for the offense. There were some big catches made, and some big running gains earned, but Panthers faithful were still buzzing about defensive stops. Fans cheered for crowd favorites like Steve Smith, Cam Newton, DeAngelo Williams, Byron Bell, and Jonathan Stewart, but the noise was still elevated due to the defensive tenacity.
After 7 vs. 7′s, the Panthers stretched and practice was over. Media moved in and fans lined up for autographs. Despite a tired and hot Panthers team, players tried to sign as many autographs as they could before entering into the team locker room. Of course in dramatic fashion, fans chased down Cam Newton, but unique to this year compared to previous years, fans did the same for the majority of the defensive players.
With all this being said, I think one thing is obvious. As this highly anticipated preseason game awaits on Saturday against the Houston Texans, fans indeed expect and have faith that the Panthers will excel on all sides of the ball this year.