PHILADELPHIA -- After spending Friday night trying to climb out of something that was swallowing them, the Carolina Panthers are getting back to their normal footing today -- the terra firma of training camp in Spartanburg.
They're expected to return for at least two days of practice, beginning this afternoon, but the way they played in their 27-10 loss to Philadelphia might dictate a longer stay.
Of course, the days spent in Spartanburg might have had something to do with the performance, of which coach John Fox said: "We just looked like we were playing in quicksand."
"It did. That's what we felt like," fullback Brad Hoover said. "I know I felt that way and maybe a couple of other guys. Sometimes it don't go your way. It's still camp for us, and sometimes that's a struggle. But that's the way it goes sometimes."
If the Panthers looked drained, it's justified. Camp's been more physical by far because of the installation of a new offense and the heavy emphasis placed on fixing the running game. It's also been blazing hot for the last two weeks, causing some extreme conditions. During one four-day stretch, the lowest heat index reading was 110 and it was up to 117.
Hoover was like many players suffering because of it, telling reporters he lost 11 pounds of water weight during one practice, but gained 16 pounds back in four hours after taking three bags of intravenous fluid.
But Friday's debacle was more than just the result of tired players.
"You know what, in camp you're supposed to be tired. So let me just leave it at that," quarterback Jake Delhomme said. "Let's find some more excuses. We didn't play well."
Wide receiver Steve Smith dismissed the notion of players being gassed, going so far as to say: "Myself, I was just kind of getting used to Spartanburg."
"If we've got to be there another week, if we do, we do, if we don't, we don't," he said. "To say we were folding our tents because we were thinking about breaking camp early, I don't think that's fair to say. Those guys go out there and they get paid and they want to do well as well. So to say that, I think that's a cop-out, I think that's not the case at all.
"We just didn't do a very good job. We just have to play better. There's a lot of things that have to be fixed."
• FAILING TO FOLLOW: Safety Chris Harris was touched for a few big plays, after generally impressing his new coaches and teammates. Acquired in a trade with Chicago just before Mike Minter's retirement, Harris is clearly the leader of a motley group of safeties on the Panthers' roster now.
Early in Friday's game, he waved at Eagles tight end Matt Schobel on what became a 58-yard gain, needing cornerback Chris Gamble to save what would only become a touchdown on the following play.
"I probably should have been deeper," Harris said. "I actually thought I got the pick, but I wasn't deep enough. It could have been better for us. I could have put myself in better position to make a play on that ball.
"We looked like two different teams out there, from last week to this week. It is the preseason, so these stats and records don't go on record until September. That's the positive in this, so we just go back to training camp and correct things. Everything that happened out there was correctable."
• DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK: Smith sloughed off the notion that the Panthers got caught in the drama of Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb's homecoming party.
The Pro Bowl regular (when healthy) lit them up in his first game since last November's knee injury.
"No, we just didn't do a very good job, there's no 'challenges to be expected,' we just have to play better," Smith replied to a sympathetic question. "There's a lot of things that have to be fixed. With the new offense or whatever the offense is, we have to do a better job of executing it.
"The whole package of what's being done has to be done a lot better than what you seen tonight, or else it's going to be a long, long season."
• THE BOTTOM LINE: Defensive tackle Kris Jenkins was asked if the Eagles did anything that surprised the Panthers during the game.
"Yeah, 27 points," he replied. "We lost, we lost bad, we have to accept that. It's not something I'm thrilled to talk about because I hate losing, but I don't think it was anything that was that unique. It was football. They played solid football and did it better than us, obviously."