Carolina Panthers

Joint practices? Why Panthers’ Ron Rivera might value them above preseason games

Panthers’ Ron Rivera on joint practice with Bills

Carolina coach on what came out of 2 days practicing with Buffalo Bills.
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Carolina coach on what came out of 2 days practicing with Buffalo Bills.

Carolilna Panthers coach Ron Rivera is such a fan of joint practices that he might rank them above preseason games as preparation for the regular season.

“I would do a mix of them if I could,” Rivera said after two days of the Panthers hosting the Buffalo Bills at Wofford. “If you can get two teams together focused on working and developing, then you can help each other out a lot.”

This was the third time the Panthers have done these joint practices, previously working with the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans. The Bills, who play the Panthers on Friday in the second of four preseason games, flew down Monday for practices in full pads Tuesday and Wednesday,

The Bills were a good fit, both because Buffalo coach Sean McDermott was Rivera’s former defensive coordinator and because the Bills, in the AFC, aren’t on the Panthers’ regular-season schedule.

On the final day of training camp, Rivera said the preseason is very different from when he played in the NFL in the 1980s and early ’90s. There is so much more year-round conditioning now that the coaching approach is different.

“Training camp used to be where you had to bring everybody (someplace) and get them into shape. Now they’re in shape (entering camp) and it’s about managing” the balance of practice and injury risk, Rivera said.

“I’m not sure that playing as many (preseason) games is as important as it used to be. But things like (joint practices) are invaluable, as far as coaching tools.”

What changes in bringing in another team is raised competition — no longer running plays against teammates — and a lack of familiarity. It test players’ ability to adapt, after going against an offense or defense from their own coaches the prior two weeks.

“You get a whole different type of intensity. You get a whole new look for an opponent,” Rivera said. “We didn’t game-plan anything (specific to the Bills), so you really need to use our stuff and really follow your rules as players.”

Burns injury

Panthers rookie pass-rusher Brian Burns tried to practice Wednesday with an ankle bruise, but ultimately the team sat him down. First-round pick Burns said the injury isn’t bad enough that he’d anticipate not being available Friday.

Starters Friday?

Panthers defensive back Donte Jackson said he anticipates the starters getting more playing time Friday against the Bills, after most first-teamers were held out of the preseason game against the Chicago Bears.

Rivera wouldn’t commit to anything, saying who plays Friday — including quarterback Cam Newton — is still under discussion. However, Rivera did indicate the team is leaning toward playing its starters at least a little: “The anticipation is to get everybody out on the football field and work.”

Rivera said the Panthers playing at home Friday, as opposed to next week’s game against the New England Patriots being on the road, is irrelevant to who plays when.

Newton synergy

Rivera was asked about Newton being able to throw most days at this training camp, after hardly ever throwing in practice the second half of last season due to a shoulder injury.

Newton not throwing except for game days last season disrupted the receivers’ preparation as much as it did Newton’s. That feels rectified now.

“That’s the most important thing: He’s got to develop that feel for timing, that feel for making things happen,” Rivera said. “It’s really about being familiar; that (receivers) group has got to get familiar with each other to get better.”

Roster notes

Offensive linemen Matt Paradis and Tyler Larsen both got Wednesday off from practice. Tight end Ian Thomas again missed practice Wednesday after suffering a rib injury against the Bears.

Wide receiver Curtis Samuel had another long touchdown reception Wednesday; Samuel was as impressive as any individual player throughout camp

Offensive lineman Norman Price was carted off the field late in practice with a left leg injury.

The Panthers coaches allowed music throughout practice Wednesday, a rarity. Newton must have known, because he playfully shouted at the audio team early in practice whether they got the memo about leaving the music on.