2012 CAROLINA PANTHERS TRAINING CAMP

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Carolina Panthers take to carpetbagging to avoid DNC

Team will head to Florida to prepare for Sept. 9 opener against Tampa Bay

By Ron Green Jr.
rgreenjr@charlotteobserver.com

CHARLOTTE, N.C. Access to Bank of America Stadium has already been limited to essential personnel only.

Massive generators are in place. Wires are being strung. Wireless internet access has been installed.

Security personnel are roaming the facility.

And while final preparations are being made for President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 6 at the stadium, the Carolina Panthers are trying to prepare for their season opener Sept. 9 at Tampa, Fla.

This week, the convention preparations are only a minor distraction for the Panthers. With a Thursday night preseason finale in Pittsburgh, they have a short week with limited practice time.

Next week, however, the Panthers will leave town on Tuesday, practice three days at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., then move to Tampa for their season opener against the Buccaneers.

The Panthers could have stayed in Charlotte next week and worked around the logistical problems caused by the President’s speech. Instead, they opted to hit the road.

“When we were talking about this in February, I don’t think we knew what it would be like if we stayed here,” general manager Marty Hurney said. “From the football side, some of the things you worry the most about are the unknown.

“We felt like going (to Florida) we could go to someplace we know and we’d know the set-up, whereas we wouldn’t know what it would be like here.”

Hurney and coach Ron Rivera along with equipment manager Jackie Miles, trainer Ryan Vermillion and head of football operations Brandon Beane mapped out a plan to make the trip similar to any other road game during the season. The IMG facility offers plenty of space to practice as well as a massive weight room.

The Panthers will also be based in a hotel with ample meeting space to accommodate the various position meetings and other activities that would happen in a normal game week at home.

Ideally, the move will require just a change in location, not a change in preparation. Other teams have had similar challenges, whether it’s going to London for a regular-season game or spending pre-Super Bowl week near the site of the game.

“We have a good plan going to Tampa,” team President Danny Morrison said. “It would have been more complicated to be here. To get out in front of this is a very positive thing. We’ve worked it into a positive.

“We could have stayed here (in Charlotte) but the football operations side made a smart decision. It’s less complicated going down there.”

Team owner Jerry Richardson donated the use of Bank of America Stadium at no charge to the Democratic convention, Morrison said. Richardson would have done the same for the Republican Party, Morrison said.

Rivera said it’s up to his team to use the move to its advantage.

“We can easily accept (the move) and say it’s a reason why or we can say it’s the reason because. That’s the way I look at it. That’s my whole point. I’m going to leave it at that,” Rivera said.

Hurney believes spending opening week away from Charlotte may help the Panthers.

“Anytime you go away for a week, it can be a bonding experience for the team,” Hurney said. “The players get closer. It’s a challenge to stay focused when you’re not in your regular routine but you face things like this all the time in our business. It’s about how you adapt and respond to distractions.”

Center Ryan Kalil said he is excited about the trip because it’s a break from the routine.

“It’s almost like you’re back in college days going to a bowl game,” Kalil said. “You get to go out and spend a week out there. Hopefully, we’ll have activities like a little gift bag, maybe a beef-eating contest with the other team. We’ll probably go to a famous restaurant.”

Told of Kalil’s approach, Rivera smiled.

“That would be nice,” Rivera said. “I just hope he doesn’t put it in the paper.”

Green Jr.: 704-358-5118
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