Less than 18 hours after their 31-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, the Carolina Panthers were back at work.
But instead of football, the team partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina in Charlotte to pack 1,500 food supply boxes for Hurricane Florence relief efforts in the region.
Every Panthers player was present.
“There are a lot of guys in our locker room who do a lot of great things for our community,” veteran center Ryan Kalil said. “Very rarely do we all get to come together and do it as a team. I think it’s a special thing.”
New team owner David Tepper was elbow-to-elbow with the players as they packed the boxes. Defensive end Mario Addison even strutted up to Tepper as Run DMC’s “Tricky” played from the Panthers’ traveling DJ’s speakers, and tried to get Tepper to dance with him.
“That’s just the kind of guy he is,” veteran defensive end Julius Peppers said of Tepper. “He wants to be very involved. He wants to be part of the community. So I think this is a great thing that we’re doing, that he’s spearheaded. ... The team came together and everyone is participating. It’s a feel-good thing that we’re doing here.”
Of course, with 53 NFL players in a room together there is bound to be some competitiveness.
Inside the food bank’s main warehouse, players were split into two teams and each tried to outpace the other to get the boxes filled, taped, and ready to ship out. The competition got so heated that while there were two hours allotted for the event, the Panthers finished with 45 minutes to spare.
“I think my side, we were like two pallets ahead of the other side,” Peppers said. “So we did a very good job. We worked efficiently ... we’re beating those guys pretty good.”
Kalil was in command of Peppers’ team, and he demanded efficiency from the jump. That included spurring on running back Christian McCaffrey, who Kalil joked was moving a little slow after his 184-yard rushing game Sunday.
“He’s probably a little beat-up from yesterday,” Peppers laughed. “So we’ll let him slide ... this time.”
Aside from committing $1.4 million to relief efforts in, Tepper and the Panthers will commit 25,000 food boxes to support the region as it recovers from the hurricane.
Peppers also personally committed $100,000 in tandem with the Panthers’ charitable foundation, and is encouraging others to donate through his fund in the coming weeks.