Tables were folded, chairs were stacked and dancing was replaced with route and coverage concepts at the Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center on Tuesday.
The Panthers took their practice indoors due to the threat of lightning two days before they’re set to meet the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants at Bank of America Stadium.
Because the Panthers lack an indoor practice facility, the team went a few blocks over to the same ballroom in which they had a kickoff luncheon last month.
“The nice thing is it’s wide enough so we can get all our formations down,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “The flooring is padded. But we weren’t working to get anyone hit, especially in a short week like this. We went out in helmet and shells and made sure we fitted things up right.”
For the offense, quarterback Cam Newton was able to see routes and coverages while the defense got looks at the proper reads on rushes and pass.
“And on a short week, whether we were inside or outside, this was really more about seeing what we needed to see and learning what we were supposed to,” Rivera said.
The Panthers used the ballroom once last season for the same weather-related reasons. But Rivera likes practicing in the elements. He pointed to last year’s home game against Jacksonville where the Panthers didn’t turn the ball over once despite the bottom falling out of the sky in the first half.
Fullback Mike Tolbert said being in a ballroom instead of the practice field was an adjustment, but it was practice nonetheless.
“It was different, running around, running routes and blocking with tennis shoes on instead of cleats is a lot different,” Tolbert said. “But we’re professionals. We’ll adjust to whatever it takes.”
INJURY UPDATE: Rivera said some of the players who did not practice Tuesday may be a game-time decision Thursday night.
Line backer Thomas Davis (hamstring), tackle Byron Bell (ankle), safety Colin Jones (shoulder), guard Mike Pollak (shoulder) and running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle) sat out with injuries.
When asked who he’s most concerned about out of the group, Rivera said “all of them.”
“It’s a short week. It’s tough,” he said. “Typically you have a pretty good feel once you get to Thursday. We won’t have that feel until Thursday morning.”
When asked in the locker room about his health, Davis said “I’m good” three times before walking away.
Wide receiver Steve Smith, wide receiver Kealoha Pilares, line backer Jon Beason and center Ryan Kalil were all limited in practice. Rivera said he felt “very comfortable” all four would play Thursday.
ROTATION STATION: For several years, the Giants have been known for their deep defensive line and a prolific pass rush. But the Panthers have seen the benefits of a rotation along their defensive front, as well.
Defensive line coach Eric Washington has been subbing more liberally this season, particularly at defensive end, in an effort to keep his players fresh. Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, signed as a free agent before Week 1, has played 107 of a possible 145 defensive snaps, the most among the linemen.
Ends Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson have been in for 71 percent and 68 percent of the defensive plays, respectively.
“I think it’s to get a lot of people in and out, just to keep everybody fresh,” Hardy said. “Last year I played close to 1,000 snaps. Chuck played like 900 snaps. We were exhausted. A lot of plays we felt like we weren’t giving our all. Coach implemented this rotation system. So far, it’s working. So we’re going to go with it.”
LATE ARRIVALS: While the Panthers try to streamline the process of screening fans with the league’s new security policy, players said they noticed it took awhile for Bank of America Stadium to fill up Sunday against the Saints.
Hardy said he noticed “little spots around the stadium,” but is confident there will be a good crowd for Thursday’s prime-time game.
“I know we’ve got some good fans. I know they’re going to get in there when they can,” Hardy said. “They get loud for us, and I appreciate them.”
Left tackle Jordan Gross said Rivera wants to create more of a home-field advantage. Gross hopes the win over New Orleans is a start.
“When you’re not winning, people aren’t cheering as loud and aren’t as excited about things,” Gross said. “And when we win, I love our fans and they’re great. We’ll just keep that winning going, and the environment the way it is.”