Panther Tracks

How to talk about the Carolina Panthers

rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

The Carolina Panthers will play in their second-ever Super Bowl Sunday against the Denver Broncos. At 17-1, the Panthers have the best record in the NFL, and their success has undoubtedly garnered them some bandwagon fans.

Many who’ve followed the team since its inception in 1995 are familiar with a handful of terms often associated with Charlotte’s hometown team, but for those newer fans, “dabbing” and “thievery” may be new.

Here’s a rundown of some Panthers terms for new supporters, befuddled Broncos fans and anyone else not familiar with the Panthers.

Keep Pounding: This is the Panthers’ de-facto rally cry. It originates from a speech in 2004 from a beloved assistant coach named Sam Mills, who was battling cancer at the time. The Panthers have trademarked the simple phrase and it’s stitched on the inside of jersey collars. It also adorns a 6-foot ceremonial drum that a special guest bangs four times before each kickoff.

Ice Up, Son: Steve Smith, a 13-year wide receiver for the Panthers, uttered this phrase in November 2013 to New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib after Talib left the game early with an injury. The Panthers beat the Patriots 24-20 at Bank of America Stadium. Talib plays for the Broncos now, so it should be interesting to see if any current Panthers talk this kind of smack on Sunday.

Dab: Cam Newton’s signature dance move that was created by Atlanta rap trio Migos. Cam’s been dabbing since the beginning of the season, but it didn’t get as much attention until after the Panthers beat the Tennessee Titans Nov. 15. It’s caused a stir, to be sure, but has also gotten hugely popular. Among some famous dabbers: Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, Charlotte Ballet dancers, Miss Universe and Hillary Clinton.

Thieves Ave./Thievery: Defensive backs call themselves “thieves” because of their penchant for interceptions. This year, the Panthers had 39 takeaways, six more than the next-closest team. A cardboard sign that read “Thieves Ave.” turned up atop the defensive backs’ row in the locker room earlier this season and was soon replaced by a spiffier one created by head coach Ron Rivera’s daughter, Courtney. They brought that sign with them to California this week.

Next Man Up: The strategy the Panthers and many other NFL teams use to replace players when one gets injured – and it’s worked particularly well for the Panthers this season. After wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin tore his ACL at training camp in August, other members of the receiving corps stepped up. Ted Ginn Jr., for example, had 10 touchdowns this season. And after cornerback Charles Tillman tore his ACL during the Tampa Bay game Jan. 3 and after cornerback Bené Benwikere broke a bone in his leg Dec. 13 against the Atlanta Falcons, the Panthers brought in former New England Patriot corner Robert McClain and Cortland Finnegan, a cornerback who at the time was semi-retired.

Riverboat Ron: Also head coach Rivera’s Twitter handle, the nickname refers to Rivera’s tendency to go for fourth down conversions when the situation warrants. That behavior started after a game against the Buffalo Bills in 2013, when there was 1:48 left in the game and the Panthers led 20-17. Facing a fourth-and-1 on Buffalo’s 21, the Panthers had the chance to gamble for a first down and possibly go on to score a game-clinching touchdown or run out the clock. But Rivera opted to kick a field goal. The Bills came back to score a last-second touchdown and beat the Panthers 24-23. The stinging loss prompted Rivera to start taking chances, gambling successfully on fourth-down situations, and Riverboat Ron was born.

Katherine Peralta: 704-358-5079, @katieperalta

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