Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule spoke with media for the first time since the start of training camp. During the availability he discussed the team’s return, players opting out of season due to Covid-19, roster focuses, facility changes and more. Here are a few things we learned:
Coach Rhule was asked about players opting out of play this season due to Covid-19 concerns. While coach mentions that with all the precautions and procedures put in place for safety around the Panthers facility he feels safe, he understands that each player and his family’s situation is different. He emphasizes that the decision to opt out is a personal one.
Unofficial Injury Report:
Good news. Coach Rhule says that veteran defensive lineman KK Short, who was sidelined most of the last year, is in “fantastic” shape and weighed in at 315 pounds. He also added that Shaq Thompson, who didn’t play in the final two games last season after suffering an ankle injury against Seattle and had surgery on his shoulder in December, is back and healthy. Graham Gano, who missed all of last season with a leg injury, also looks “healthy and great”.
As the team evaluates their roster, look for Rhule and company to place an emphasis on versatility. While it’s always nice to have players who can step up when guys get injured during a typical season, Covid adds another hazard that teams will have to navigate (if/when players are sidelined due to positive tests). Coach Rhule says the team will focus on cross-training players so that multiple guys can step in, if needed, to fill holes.
The Panthers facilities have gone through some extensive changes that enforce recommended social distancing. The franchise has knocked down walls to expand the locker room, transformed old meeting rooms to recovery areas where players will have more space and moved offices to the third floor. The team also built two outdoor weight rooms in order to comply with capacity rules that limit the areas to 15 players at a time.