With No Fans, Panthers Preparing To Create Their Own Energy

Jason Huber
September 10, 2020 - 6:18 pm

When the Carolina Panthers take the field on Sunday for the first time this season, Bank of America Stadium will be missing a huge part of the game-day experience: Fans.

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the Panthers are one of many teams unable to have fans in their home stadium at least for the first week of the NFL season, and it'll be hard not to notice.

"It's new for all of us," defensive tackle Kawann Short said. "We're gonna go through some kinks and find some rough patches."

Carolina head coach Matt Rhule held a mock scrimmage last week with the team inside the stadium while using artificial crowd noise but was not pleased with the team's performance.

In response, Rhule had the team's sports psychologist, who meets with the team regularly, talk with them about creating their own energy come game day.

"All great teams eliminate distractions but also create their own energy," Rhule said. "We certainly want to play for the fans and our families but when we're in the game we have to act as a team and we have to play for each other. When you're a team, you support each other when the other side of the ball is having a hard time. When you're having success, instead of relaxing and getting complacent, you continue to push each other."

Running back Christian McCaffrey, who was named a team captain this week for the second-straight year, is one of the players who found some good advice from the sports psychologist to create energy come game day.

"Any advantage we can get we're gonna try and attack it," McCaffrey said. "It's something that a lot of guys have found help them continue to stay focused, negative talk or anything like that. Anytime you can have a mental advantage over somebody, I think it's important. We try to bring in all the tools we can."

Short explained some of the takeaways he gathered from the meeting.

"Just finding what makes you happy and excited to go. What and who are you playing for? The people that are around you and what you typically do day in and day out of the game. Just some of the things you've done since high school and college and into the league now," Short said.

The fans are a huge part of what gets players pumped for game day, but some guys on the team like safety Tre Boston, have a natural knack for creating energy and excitement.

"Everybody knows I don't lack the part of having energy but I think it's very important in distributing it to the team," Boston said. "Without having fans there to pump us up, go back to like high school and pop warner when you're really pumping each other up as teammates and happy that each other are making plays and feeding off each other's energy."

All of this is important to stay motivated but hopefully, once the game begins, that competitive mindset will kick in and block out all the outside noise.

"At the end of the day, when there are fans there we love it but we still have a football game to play," McCaffrey said. "Once you kind of hit that flow state and are kind of in the zone, you don't really recognize your surroundings and just go out there and not think and play ball so that's what I'm hoping for real early on."

If the Panthers use that mental advantage, dig deep for why they love the game and play hard, Rhule believes everything will come together, with or without fans.

"We'll bank on our relationships and on the guys we have to create energy and to push each and hold each other to our standard," he said. "Most importantly, have fun. We want to go out there, fly around, have fun and play with tremendous passion, and the only way to do that is if we're playing together."

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