Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule was full of positivity after the team concluded activities in training camp at Wofford College.
There was something different about the Carolina Panthers during this year’s training camp. Whether it was the magnitude of the upcoming campaign or the introduction of legitimate NFL coaches under Matt Rhule, the urgency and approach were far different and welcome ahead of a huge 2022 season.
Rhule himself looked rejuvenated, losing some weight and boasting a fresh tan before descending on Spartanburg. Carolina’s camp was also relatively free of incidents where the head coach was concerned aside from criticism surrounding his reaction to a Rashard Higgins touchdown that resulted in the Panthers‘ offense running gassers.
Obviously, the quarterback position took center stage. Rhule has been keen to give Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold equal reps before making a formal decision about his starting signal-caller, even if the Oklahoma product appears to be ahead of the pack heading into the preseason.
Matt Rhule pleased with the positive spirit within Carolina Panthers
The former Baylor man was in a reflective mood when speaking in front of the media for the final time. When asked what his overriding memory was of camp, Rhule highlighted the spirit within the locker room and away from team activities in a college setting.
"“I think getting away is wonderful. In a world where most of our guys have other things going on in their lives, they have families and all those things, having the opportunity to get away and bond, spend time together. It’s great when phones go down, and decks of cards come out. The old school things. . . . We hung out last night, I’ve got Shaq Thompson sitting next to Johnny Hekker. Those things are great for teams.”"
This is a step in the right direction for Rhule, who has adopted a different approach this offseason operating on what many anticipate will be an extremely hot seat in 2022. Getting the players on the same page has never been a problem throughout his tenure, so the proof comes down to how much the Panthers can actually progress when the regular season arrives.
It’s clear that Rhule has a lot more confidence in his team’s chances. He’s always talked a big game, but his demeanor alone suggests that the head coach is expecting big things from a talented group despite a tough-looking schedule.
From a fan perspective, talk is cheap. They are growing weary of watching losing football and the atmosphere at Bank of America Stadium would not be classed as an advantage by any stretch of the imagination.
Start winning games. That’s all people want to see after so much underachievement and abject failure.
There are no more excuses for Rhule. But it’s a challenge he’s clearly relishing heading into a critical third year under his leadership.
Morale can change in the blink of an eye. All it’ll take is one or two disappointing losses early on to completely undo the good work this summer.
This sounds like a fine line because it is. Ten wins over two years will do that.
Rhule has the talent around him across the board following a strong period of recruitment and coaching changes. But if he cannot avoid the complications that blighted his first two years, then this fish will likely rot from the head down.