Carolina Panthers

Panthers' Fox breaks routine, calls for workout without pads

CHARLOTTE -- In an effort to help his team avoid their recent slow starts, Panthers coach John Fox made each of his players about 10 pounds lighter Wednesday.

For the first time since the regular season started -- as well as in recent memory -- the Panthers worked without full pads for their heaviest mid-week session.

That's quite a change for Fox, who has never shied away from running physical practices well into the season.

There have been some brief exceptions, such as 2004 when they were so injured they couldn't risk getting anyone banged up. Otherwise, they generally stay in full gear throughout, even when they're preparing for playoff games.

Fullback Brad Hoover had a relieved look on his face discussing the decision, which Fox made after consulting with groups of players the last few days.

"I was in agreement with everybody else," Hoover said of ditching his shoulder pads for a day. "But I didn't know if it would come to light or not."

Tight end Jeff King laughed when asked about Fox making the switch, saying: "He has reservations about doing that, so for him to do that, he felt strongly about it."

After getting off to sluggish first quarters in each of their last three games, they're pushing whatever buttons necessary to get ready for Sunday's game at Green Bay.

They also quickened the pace of practice. For instance, defensive tackle Damione Lewis said the offense was at the line ready to go when the defense broke huddles, forcing them to get to the line quickly. Atlanta used a no-huddle offense and some late substitutions to keep the Panthers from swapping out personnel as often.

"We changed up some things in practice, started practicing at a faster tempo, trying to get things corrected," Lewis said. "I think guys came out with the right mindset today at work. Flying around, making plays and doing what they're supposed to do. I think we're doing everything in our power we can to correct it."

In the past, some players have even complained quietly about Fox's practices being too strenuous late in the year, but with his "tough and smart" credo, he has always leaned toward heavier workouts, keeping them in pads for Wednesday and Thursday work into December and January.

The actual weight of the protective gear isn't as much as the psychological lift they get, as the move comes at a time when you could argue they need more work in pads.

"It's not a huge difference," Hoover said. "I think it's more mental. It is some physical, but more mental. Hopefully, it's just a little edge. A lot of teams throughout the league are far and past pads. Us getting to this point, maybe it helps, we'll wait and see."

• HISTORY MAJOR: When Fox was a kid, he played for his Pop Warner ball for a team called the Plaza Packers. He mentioned Wednesday that when he was young, he rooted for this week's opponent.

"I think just the history," Fox replied when asked about the mystique of Lambeau Field. "I go way back to 1966 when I was a Packers fan and some of the things that took place then. That was a long time ago, and I'm embarrassed to say I can remember that, but I do. But it does have great tradition and great history."

He tried to backpedal a bit when pressed on his fandom, but admitted a few favorites: "Bart Starr, Jim Taylor to name a couple. Offensive guys, believe it or not."

• EXTRA POINTS: The Panthers enjoyed another short injury report, listing just two players. Linebacker Adam Seward (ankle) didn't participate, and running back Jonathan Stewart (heel) participated fully. They didn't even list quarterback Jake Delhomme, as Fox said "because we don't consider it an injury."

Delhomme suffered a cut on his right elbow last week in Atlanta but said it wasn't a problem.