Carolina Panthers bring the goods for a fanbase reborn

What a summer it's been at Carolina Panthers training camp.

Keith Taylor Jr.

The Carolina Panthers once again pulled out all the stops for a fanbase that has a genuine belief that anything is possible under Frank Reich's new regime.

As I sat down to drink the first of what was sure to be about a half-dozen cups of coffee before departing Spartanburg en route to Charlotte, I began thinking about all the ventures I have been fortunate enough to partake in this off-season. The Carolina Panthers franchise offers fans a few different opportunities to be involved with the team during the spring and early summer, despite there being no football games played.

My excursions begin with training camp, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the NFL Draft party that the Panthers hosted at Bank of America Stadium back in April as the launching pad for the off-season events. Though I was unable to make that one, I had plenty of friends and family in attendance. Going off their accounts, the shindig seemed perfectly in line with my own personal experiences.

The Panthers are an endangered species when it comes to NFL training camp practices. They are one of the last remaining teams that stay on campus for the duration of camp. Wofford College becomes home for roughly three weeks.

Carolina Panthers embraced the family-feel

On the first Saturday of camp, the team held their Back Together practice at Gibbs Field. While fans didn’t fill the bleachers to capacity, it was an impressive turnout.

Back Together Saturday is more of an all-around entertainment event than typical training camp practice sessions. Sir Purr was running around, doing his usual hijinks. The Top Cats were firing the crowd up, as were the Black & Blue Crew and Purrcussion.

The live practice was still the main attraction. Bryce Young displayed the qualities that made him the No. 1 overall draft pick this year. The defense was zooming around, giving serious optimism to fans for the upcoming season with this new-look Panthers team.

It was a great reunion to bring back the football feelings, a culmination of the waiting period. The team has held training camp at Wofford since the inception of the franchise in 1995. Owner David Tepper attempted the Rock Hill facility, but that one flamed out.

Talks are ongoing about whether the Panthers will continue the Spartanburg tradition or not. So being able to sit in the bleachers of Gibbs Stadium this year was a real privilege.

Up next was Fan Fest, which is set up in the same vein as Back Together Saturday, but with more grandiose attractions and entertainment. Plus, it’s held at Bank of America Stadium.

For me, personally, Fan Fest was my favorite offseason jaunt. I attended the event with my mother and sister, who are at every home game with PSLs, and it was also my five-year-old son’s first trip to The Bank.

The Panthers organization has always prided itself on its familial approach to fans. That prerogative was clear throughout the event.

When you arrived at your seat, there was a bracelet perched upon the armrest. This clever bit of technology wound up being an integral part of the grand finale – a fireworks display and booming music that was paired with a laser light show and that bracelet pulsing and switching between a combination of bright colors. It was a true spectacle.

Practice hit differently on the home turf, as well. With the jumbotron, you’re able to get a much clearer look at the action. There was more intensity from the players, it seemed, thanks to the large number of spectators. Which, by the way, the final figure exceeded 40,000 fans.

While tickets were required to attend, they came at a minimal cost - $5 per ticket, making it more appealing to brave a late Wednesday night than the expensive Sunday afternoons. If you have not experienced a Carolina Panthers Fan Fest yet, I absolutely recommend doing so. And bring your family with you to really hammer home the memory for the rest of your life.

My last endeavor this offseason came in the form of attending the joint practices…err, practice, against the visiting New York Jets. There is always hoopla that follows New York sports teams, but this team brought an extra flair with them, being the subject of HBO’s Hard Knocks series.

Oh, and some fella named Aaron Rodgers is apparently a big deal.

Carolina Panthers fanbase has reignited under the new regime

There were 10,217 tickets dealt for the practice event. That’s a gigantic number to watch a practice – no matter who is playing or what network is filming it.

The football aspect of the show was phenomenal. Chuba Hubbard ran the ball with tenacity and intent. Brian Burns was unstoppable, as was his buddy, Derrick Brown. Hayden Hurst, Terrace Marshall Jr., and Ian Thomas were absolutely about that action.

The Panthers' offense got the better of the Jets defense. That seemed to be the case for the inverse, as well.

The teams concluded practice with a couple of sets of two-minute drills. On the two drives the offense orchestrated, they came away with a field goal for each possession.

For the defense, the two-minute drills were their shining moment. The first drive was brief – the good guys forced a three and out. The second - the final of practice - did a nice job of putting a theatrical and symbolic cap on the entire three weeks. The second unit, chock-full of young guys that are fighting for roster spots and depth positioning, was aggressive and made life uncomfortable for once-upon-a-time notable quarterback Zach Wilson.

Outside linebackers Eku Leota and Amare Barno got third-down pressure on Wilson and he reacted to being sped up by delivering a training camp-ending interception. On the receiving end of that turnover? A name we all should be familiar with by now, and hopefully are all finally pronouncing correctly – camp standout Kamu Grugier-Hill.

We have a game day on the horizon now. The Panthers will host the Jets at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday (4 p.m. ET), and we’ll finally all get to look at the product on the field together.

It feels great to be back to football season, but I learned a lesson this spring and summer. As fans, we have awesome opportunities afforded to us in hopes of forming a meaningful connection with the players and organization we so passionately support.

I hope that you all could feel my enjoyment throughout this article. And I also hope that you’ll seize any chance you find yourself with to get out and experience these functions for yourself.

That’s a wrap on training camp. The next time you’ll hear from me, it’ll be about Carolina Panthers football games. Keep Pounding!