"I can't even start to put it into words," he said. "I sit in bed at night after watching film and just think about such a special year we have in front of us. It's a different feeling, and I just can't wait to get started. I just know there's going to be something special here this year."
That belief breeds excitement. So do the doubters and prognosticators who take a guess at who will emerge as contenders. At the moment, it's all unknown.
"There's excitement about the unknown," head coach Ron Rivera said. "There's excitement about what the potential is and what you hope to become."
One thing we know for sure – there will be plenty of electricity in the air when the Panthers exit the locker room and make their way to the tunnel to start the new season.
"It's going to be an adrenaline rush like no other," quarterback
CORNERS EARNING TRUST: The Panthers coaching staff and front office has shown confidence in young cornerbacks like
"The word I would use is trust. I trust those guys a whole lot more," Hardy said. "They are covering, they are moving well. They are just doing their jobs at a really high caliber, and I know that they want more, just like the D-line does."
Rivera said the cornerbacks are expected to take another step in their long-term development this season, but Thomas made it clear that the time is now to produce.
"I'm not going to sit here and say we don't have a young secondary, but I will say this: we are working to be the No. 1 secondary by the end of this year," Thomas said. "Age is just a number. We have great coaches who we trust. We have a great front, and they are going to make us better."
INJURY UPDATE: Linebacker
"Jon has had three really good weeks," Rivera said. "He practiced on Monday and came out a little sore and tired, and he really hasn't taken any time since (he returned). I expect him back tomorrow and then obviously ready to go."
"He took every rep he was supposed to today," Rivera said. "Mike took the steps he was supposed to take today."
CAPTAINS COMING: Rivera said the team has voted for six team captains but the votes have not been tallied yet.
The captains – who will be the top six vote getters at any position – will be announced Thursday.
Gerhart spent the entire 2012 season on the Browns' practice squad and then spent the post-season on the Packers' practice squad before being waived in the final roster cutdown this year.
Also, the Panthers reached injury settlements with the following players: wide receiver