Heated exchange proves Carolina Panthers' inner fight is returning

The head coach loved his team's intensity.
Dave Canales
Dave Canales / Jared C. Tilton/GettyImages

Dave Canales is increasing competition and raising standards. The Carolina Panthers were desperately seeking someone with enthusiasm and progressive thinking after the previous two head coaches. It's only early, but there's a growing sense that the franchise might have their guy at long last.

Matt Rhule thought he knew everything but knew nothing. Frank Reich didn't have enough energy to inspire an organization on its knees. That's not something associated with Canales, who's working with a collaborative approach and clear vision that got everyone on the same page quickly.

The intensity increased during Carolina's mandatory minicamp. This even came with a heated exchange between veteran edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney and running back Raheem Blackshear. According to those in attendance, the pair had words before teammates and coaches pulled them apart.

That's all part of the increased intensity Canales is looking for based on comments via Last Word on Sports. The head coach didn't seem too bothered by the exchange, but he acknowledged there was a line that shouldn't be crossed that players are well aware of.

"The competition is what we want to see. We want to see the energy. It was a lively deal. We pushed it to the edge, guys were getting really chippy. Just kind of asked them: Play at that edge, (but) let’s not step over, let’s protect our team, let’s be great teammates first. And the guys handled it and responded well. What I came into was a group that already knows how to work, a group that knows how to create a great locker room environment. So a lot of these things that you want and expect from a pro team, these guys have that, and they have that standard already set. And I’m just like, great, let’s keep doing this."

Dave Canales via LWOS

Clowney and Blackshear's antics aren't the first and won't be the last. Competing against the same guys every day throughout the summer becomes arduous. When things aren't going a player's way, that's when situations can boil over more often than not.

This is all about being competitive and making each other better. Canales also needs to restore a sense of confidence and fight into a group that was bullied too often during the 2023 campaign. If that means a few skirmishes now and again, it's a small price to pay.

Canales is right. If the coaching staff is asking players to compete right on the edge, these things will happen. What's important is harnessing this correctly when the regular season begins in Week 1 at the New Orleans Saints.

Showing more fight is the minimum requirement fans want to see this offseason. They are sick of being perceived as the NFL's laughingstock. Dan Morgan wants the Panthers logo to be feared around the league once again. This is a small example of fierceness and a sense of inner pride returning when all hope seemed lost.

While the incident was quickly dealt with, Canales could be forgiven for having a wry smile. This is the sort of intensity he's looking for. Something that can hopefully provide a much-needed spark that ignites the Panthers in 2024 and beyond under his outstanding leadership.