It only makes sense that former colleagues Ron Rivera and Sean McDermott came up with the joint practices the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills will have this week in steamy Spartanburg .... A year later than the plan was designed for.
Panthers coach Rivera and Bills counterpart McDermott initially contemplated putting their teams together in the 2018 preseason. However, Rivera decided with everything else going on with the Panthers’ ownership change, changing from Jerry Richardson to David Tepper, to push joint practices back a year.
“We decided to wait until this season,” said Rivera, who had McDermott as his defensive coordinator from 2011 until 2016. “They do a lot of things we used to do on defense and they have a whole new offense they put in last year. It should be fun.”
It will also be intense, which will make the coaches for both teams wary. The Panthers and Bills will practice together Tuesday and Wednesday in Spartanburg, then play a preseason game Friday night at Bank of America Stadium.
There are several former Panthers on the Bills’ roster. Notably, the Bills just signed former Panthers defensive back Captain Munnerlyn, known for spicing up games and practices with a litany of trash talk.
“It’ll be like the yappy dog,” Rivera joked of Munnerlyn, a 10-year veteran who the Panthers cut in February. “Somebody rings the doorbell, and the dog starts barking.”
The Panthers resumed practice Sunday after having Friday and Saturday off. It was a brutally hot and humid day in Spartanburg — the heat index hovered around 100 degrees during the late-afternoon practice — and the temperatures will rise into the upper 90s at midweek.
Rivera is cognizant of that, particularly with the raised competitiveness of two NFL teams scrimmaging. He said a lot of discussion and planning has gone into prepping for those practices, including a warning to the Bills about the brutal heat this week
“We said, ‘Hey, guys, we’re really going to be in for this (heat wave) so you might make sure your guys are hydrating now,” Rivera said. “We’ve talked about how to set practice up, how we’re going to use reps.
“We’re going to be smart because the intensity will ramp up; a lot of energy will be expended. The biggest thing is we’ve got to be careful with the players and make sure we come out of this healthy from both sides.”
▪ Tight end Ian Thomas didn’t practice Sunday. He left Thursday’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears with a rib injury.
▪ Rookie running back Jordan Scarlett continues to be out with a back injury.
▪ Veteran safety Tre Boston, signed last week, is still practicing mostly with the second-team defense despite being listed as a starter on the depth chart. That’s probably about Boston catching up after not being with the Panthers in the off-season, but another veteran safety, Ross Cockrell, has played well.
▪ The biggest play of Sunday’s practice had to be quarterback Cam Newton’s over-the-shoulder completion to Curtis Samuel down the right sideline for about 25 yards. Later in the practice, Newton slightly overthrew Samuel on another long ball. If nothing else, Newton overthrowing as speedy a receiver as Samuel shows a return of arm strength after off-season shoulder surgery.
▪ Newton never fails to entertain at these practices. When he ran a keeper into the end zone (this was not a fully-padded practice), he did a touchdown dance to the delight of the crowd of fans watching behind that end zone. Later, Newton amused himself by singing “Sittin’ on the dock of the bay...”
▪ Rookie quarterback Willl Grier got the reps with the second-team offense Sunday. Grier and Kyle Allen (who started against the Bears with Newton sitting out) have alternated in practice who works with which group. Newton typically gets a practice off from throwing about every third day of the preseason.
▪ Running back Christian McCaffrey got a huge cheer from the crowd early in Sunday’s practice on a sweep down the left sideline when he turned on the burners. Granted, in shells and shorts, there wasn’t anyone to truly tackle him, but the crowd loved it.