Carolina Panthers

Panthers wrap up training camp

On the last day of camp, rookie football players, from left, Steven Jackson, Jon Beason, and Mickey Pimentel are taped to the goal post and doused with ice cold water as they undergo initiation rites.
On the last day of camp, rookie football players, from left, Steven Jackson, Jon Beason, and Mickey Pimentel are taped to the goal post and doused with ice cold water as they undergo initiation rites.

SPARTANBURG -- There were some celebrations, a little shouting, but it's not as if the Carolina Panthers were in a full sprint off the field when training camp broke Monday.

They were too tired.

The Panthers wrapped up their month at Wofford College exhausted after what coach John Fox kindly described as "a tough, physical camp."

With the second phase of installation of their new offense -- with a heavy emphasis on fixing the running game -- the practices were the most physical in years, according to a number of players.

"Yeah, you've got new people, both players and coaches," Fox said. "Sometimes in that case, you've got to be even more enthusiastic about how you go about the hitting part of it, and I thought we made strides that way."

The Panthers might have gotten away a few days earlier, but after stinking up Philadelphia last week, they had to come back for two more days of work. Fox said after that game his team looked like it was "playing in quicksand," and it's easy to draw the line between the grueling camp and that performance.

"We got a lot accomplished," fullback Brad Hoover said. "It didn't show the other night, but I think it's going to pay off for us down the road and we're going to become a better team because of it."

The camp was also one of the hottest ever. After an early stretch of mild days, it stayed at or above 100 degrees, with heat indexes climbing to the high 110s the remainder of camp.

"At the end of the day, it makes you a tougher football team, there's no question," Fox said.

"By far," Hoover said when asked if the conditions were the worst he's seen in eight years. "There's been a couple of hot years, but not consistently hot like this. It's been real hot and brutal.

"You come out here, your body doesn't always feel the best, but you try to work as a team and try to get better. I think we have got better, so we'll just continue to do that."

The team will conduct the rest of their preseason practices at Bank of America Stadium. They'll only have one per day the rest of the season.

• ATTENDANCE OFF: Largely because of the ridiculously hot weather, attendance was down this year.

According to the Spartanburg Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Panthers drew 22,103. They hadn't tabulated the attendance for the two most recent practices, but both were sparsely attended.

Last summer, with expectations high, 25,785 fans showed up, eclipsing the previous high of 23,785 in 2004.

• EXTRA POINTS: The Panthers finished camp the same way they went through much of it -- with linebackers Na'il Diggs and Brandon Jamison on the sidelines. Both spent the bulk of camp working on the side with strength coach Jerry Simmons.

Diggs came back and started last week at Philadelphia at weakside linebacker, but aggravated a hamstring. That's opened the door once again for rookie Jon Beason, who has had a good camp despite his late start.

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