It didn’t take long for Rasul Douglas to make an impact on the Carolina Panthers. Just days after signing, he was called upon to play major minutes when Donte Jackson got injured in the Panthers opening season loss to the Raiders. His immediate impact on the field was impressive, especially after limited time learning the playbook, but it’s a suggestion he made to Matt Rhule ahead of the team’s week-three matchup against the Chargers that may have changed the tide for the season.
“Since I’ve been here I’ve been thinking about things and I called him,” Douglas said when asked about his talk with Rhule. “I basically told him how I felt. I didn’t feel like we were playing for each other. I remember when we were down 21-0 to Tampa Bay and I looked at everybody and it was a whatever type of thing and I didn’t like it. So, I told him how I felt about it and how I wanted us to play for each other. It’s bigger when you play for the team rather than the individual.”
Rasul knows all about playing on a team with great chemistry and camaraderie. In 2017, he was a rookie on the Philadelphia Eagles squad that won the Super Bowl. He said the bond formed with players on that team remains to this day. It was an experience that taught him the importance of knowing your teammate’s “why.” Why guys play. What motivates them. What experiences have helped shaped them to become who they are.
During the meeting, that included players and coaches, Teddy Bridgewater talked about his mom’s battle with cancer and how her smile was one of the most important things to him. Lineman Chris Reed talked about contracting Covid-19 and having to be isolated from his pregnant wife. Shaq Thompson, Tahir Whitehead, Mike Davis and Rasul also shared experiences.
“I think when you hear what people have been through, or when you hear what people have sacrificed to go out there and play the game for you, you appreciate it,” Coach Rhule said.
NFL players spend a vast majority of their time with their teammates. Getting to know those who you spend such a huge chunk of your life with is important. The Panthers missed out on that this offseason, where guys interacted with each other via impersonal online conferences rather than the extremely personal locker room.
“One of the biggest things was, do we really know each other? When you think about it we didn’t have OTA’s,” Carolina Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said when asked about the meeting. “This week we really spent some time getting to know each other.”
The initiative Douglas took to get the team together to share personal stories sparked something. Knowing each other’s “why” meant something. And guys said they saw it on the field.
“It transitioned to the football field,” Bridgewater added. “Instead of guys being in the huddle with guys who they barely know, you take time to get to know each other and now you understand a person’s purpose and it makes playing together that much more of a good feeling.”
The Panthers will look to take the momentum from their first win back to Bank of America Stadium when they face the Cardinals this Sunday.