SPARTANBURG, S.C. – For everyone involved, training camp is a grind.
But at least once a day, it's worth a grin.
Now that the 21st and final day of Panthers training camp is in the books, here's a day-by-day look at some of the best moments - from a professional and personal perspective – beginning with the Panthers.com crew's early arrival on Thursday, July 26.
Professional: The vision of undrafted rookie free agent
Personal: The Panthers.com crew's traditional training camp kickoff meal at Outback Steakhouse. For one team member, it was his first ever trip down under. Don't know how that's possible.
Professional: Just when it looks like move-in day might prove a bore, wide receiver
Personal: Another first for two Panthers.com rookies - their first "Hot Doughnuts Now" experience at Krispy Kreme, in the ultra lounge section of the sparkling Spartanburg store no less.
Professional: When Pro Bowl center
Personal: My wife, 7-year-old son and parents come down to camp for the first time in my third year on the job. My mom is especially excited that now she'll have a visual image of where I am when she thinks of me. Gotta love moms.
Professional: Wide receiver
Personal: Watching long snapper
Professional: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley visits practice to declare it "Carolina Panthers Day" in South Carolina, doing so as the first padded practice of camp takes place just a few feet behind her.
Personal: Seeing Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson honored in the process with the 76-year-old's high school football coach among the attendees.
Professional: The sight of fans hanging in through a rainstorm to watch their Panthers practice, including quarterback
Personal: The players get a 24-hour break, affording the staff a lesser but a no-less appreciated break. The Panthers.com crew dares to take in a movie - "The Watch," which we proclaim to be the worst movie we've ever seen and leave after 45 minutes to catch the final minutes of "Ted." Only marginally better.
Professional: In the first two-minute drill of camp, Newton completes 7-of-9 passes, capping the touchdown drive when Smith snares a pass in the right corner of the end zone and drags his feet to stay inbounds. Hope to see that a lot this season.
Personal: The Panthers.comers enjoy lunch at The Beacon Drive-In, Spartanburg institution since 1946 complete with a Carolina Panthers room (not since 1946). I order the "Double Chili Cheeseburger A-Plenty," a platter that features enough french fries and onion rings to feed the starting offensive line.
Professional: During the two-minute drill, watching head coach Ron Rivera teaching both sides of the ball a finer part of clock management. If the defense jumps offside with three seconds left, Rivera notes, the offense shouldn't flinch to draw the flag but rather take the "free play" and thus get another shot with an untimed down if needed.
Personal: Watching Newton razz the referee for a pass interference call on a pass from
Professional: Rivera causing somewhat of a stir by calling cornerback
Personal: Heading home late Friday night after eight consecutive nights in the dorm and spending a little time with my family before Fan Fest.
Professional: Rookie linebacker
Personal: My son running across the field several times in pursuit of Newton's autograph, his face going from determined to teary and finally to overjoyed.
On the 11th day, they rested. And it was good.
Professional: Rain forces practice into the gym, prompting 285-pound defensive end
Personal: Listening to the determination in cornerback
Professional: Munnerlyn shows why he is the defensive Steve Smith – with a smile on his face. "They might be coming for my job, but I'm coming for
Personal: Playing basketball for the first time in about 18 months, albeit a one-on-one, halfcourt game with Panthers.com staff writer Max Henson, who outlasts me. It took me about four days to recover.
Professional: Rivera stops practice and calls the entire team together, sharing some choice words about their intensity level. The team responds in kind.
Personal: A schedule change that moves practice to earlier in the day allows some members of the Panthers.com team a little more personal time. We take advantage with our first visit to another Spartanburg institution, Gerhard's Cafe, for a little outdoor dining. Very unique atmosphere.
Professional: Talk to defensive end
Personal: The Jersey boy Henson enjoys another first at another Spartanburg institution, trying sweet tea for the first time at Wade's.
Professional: On the eve of the preseason opener, Munnerlyn gets three field goal attempts from 12 yards to give the team a chance to skip evening meetings. He misses the first but comes through on the second. Rivera said he picked Munnerlyn "because Captain gave me the best chance for him to miss."
Personal: I answer my first slew of questions in our newest feature, "Ask Bryan." I'm overwhelmed by the response: 81 questions in the first 24 hours from spots like Idaho, Australia and the United Arab Emirates. Keep ‘em coming.
Professional: The Panthers open the preseason at home against the Houston Texans, but the biggest news comes before the game when the team announces a five-year contract extension for running back
Personal: Krispy Kreme doughnuts are a press box staple at Bank of America Stadium. With strawberries available for a little shortcake action, I create a new and quite tasty dessert by instead slapping my strawberries on top of an original glazed.
On the 18th day, they rested again. Still good.
Personal: My muscles have finally recovered enough for another hoops game, this time joined by five other members of the televison and digital media teams. I don't want to brag, but I will. I put the "elder statesmen" team on my shoulders and carried it to victory. Soon, though, I lost the ability to put one foot in front of the other.
Professional: Rookie cornerback
Personal: Kalil is kind enough to share the results of the players' annual PIG basketball tournament (think HORSE but only shorter). Jansen wins the 32-player event, edging Anderson in the final.
Professional: As the final practice winds down, a wayward pass skips past Smith and settles a few feet from me. I scoop it up, then toss it to the ballboy, close enough for him to catch it at least. "You play in the NFL?" a fan yells. Clearly no, but I do live for the NFL.
Personal: At long last, another training camp comes to a close, and I head home. A stop for some Krispy Kreme doughnuts and some South Carolina peaches, and I cross back into my native North Carolina.