Panthers head coach Matt Rhule: ‘Go out there and have fun’

(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Matt Rhule
(Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images) Matt Rhule /

Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule is calling for his roster to have fun during their Week 1 clash against the Las Vegas Raiders.

If Matt Rhule has any nerves ahead of his first game as head coach of the Carolina Panthers, he certainly isn’t showing it.

The head coach was brought in from Baylor with the sole task of leading the Carolina Panthers back to prominence after a series of disappointments in recent years. He has come across well in the early stages of his leadership. But that will count for nothing if his roster cannot get it done on the field when it matters most.

Today’s game against the Las Vegas Raiders represents a good chance for the Panthers to get off on the front foot. It will be a game devoid of any atmosphere with no fans permitted to enter Bank of America Stadium. But if they can generate their own energy then it might to with an all-important first victory.

Matt Rhule wants the Carolina Panthers to enjoy themselves.

The stakes are high for Rhule, who made some bold decisions regarding personnel alongside general manager Marty Hurney this offseason. Panthers’ assistant director of digital/broadcasting Bill Voth caught up with the head coach prior to warmups and he has made it clear to his roster to enjoy the occasion and remember why they fell in love with the game in the first place.

"I’m not nervous. I told our team, ‘Let’s go out there and attack, not have a spirit of fear but a spirit of joy. Let’s play the game like 10 & 12-year-olds playing Pop Warner. Let’s go out there and have fun.’"

That might be easier said than done if Carolina struggles early on. But there is every chance this team can hit the ground running should things click into place right away.

Much will depend on their offense and whether they can live up their lofty billing. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has an incredible amount of pressure on his shoulders and it will be interesting to see how Joe Brady’s dynamic scheme at LSU transitions to the pro ranks.

Rhule will know more than anyone the glaring deficiencies that could emerge from his defense., particularly at cornerback. The Raiders will look to gain significant yards in the passing game early and often. So it will be up to certain individuals to raise their game accordingly.

The coaching staff will be learning as they go. Rhule is getting his first taste of overseeing a game at the next level and is aiming to avoid being another name on the list of those with impressive college resumes that failed to make an impact in the NFL.

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This is a long-term project, in no uncertain terms. Rhule might be getting a free pass in terms of any notable winning record in 2020. But that doesn’t mean the pressure isn’t on in pursuit of getting the Panthers going back in the right direction.