Takeaways from Christian McCaffrey's virtual press conference

The Panthers locked up one of their cornerstones with a contract extension through 2025 last week, and on Monday afternoon running back Christian McCaffrey met with the media for his first virtual press conference.

"I've never done anything like this — this is wild," McCaffrey said, remarking at the rows of faces he could see in the gallery-view rectangles.

The Panthers were among a dozen teams who began their virtual offseason programs on Monday, and McCaffrey had time for about 20 minutes of questions before resuming his preparations for the 2020 season.

Here are the top takeaways from McCaffrey's availability.

An easy process

McCaffrey was clearly appreciative of how his contract negotiations proceeded, expressing gratitude and relief that the process was able to get done so quickly. As a player who just finished the third season of his pro career, this is the first offseason McCaffrey was eligible to receive an extension.

"I knew I wanted to be in Carolina, so I was excited to get it done early," McCaffrey said.

The only NFL player to record at least 2,500 yards rushing and receiving in his first three seasons, McCaffrey said he had no reservations about inking a long-term deal despite the organizational changes over the past few months.

"I never focused on signing somewhere else — that never occurred to me. I want to be in Carolina for my whole career," McCaffrey said. "I bought a place in Charlotte. I love the Carolinas more than anything in the world. It's somewhere I would like to call home forever. And I didn't want to leave, to be honest with you. And I don't think they wanted me to leave either. And through everything, it was nothing but respect."

"I just focus on what I can do every day with the teammates that I have, and right now, we've got some great ones," McCaffrey added. "So I'm excited to play with a new bunch, with a new energy, and see where we can take it."

The do-everything offensive weapon also appreciated the faith the Panthers displayed by making him the highest-paid running back in league history. 

"It shows that I'm on a team whose ownership and whose front offices believe in me the way I believe in myself," McCaffrey said. "And to me, that means a lot knowing that I get to go to work every day and be the best me, and be myself. So I'm very fortunate, very blessed, and I'm excited to play ball with the Panthers."

Being a leader

When newly acquired Panthers have met (virtually) with the media this offseason, they've all said McCaffrey was one of the first to reach out, welcoming them to the team. McCaffrey said it's essential for him to do that to help build a bond and establish chemistry.

"It's important we have fellowship as much as we can while we can't all be together," McCaffrey said. "We have so many new guys on our team, I think it's important for all of us to step up. You need to know each other. You need to know the guy who's playing next to you if you want to go win on Sundays. So building that bond is really important early on."

More than that, with the turnover in personnel, McCaffrey recognizes he needs to increase his leadership role.

"I think when you have the opportunity to play with great players like Cam (Newton), like Luke (Kuechly), like Greg (Olsen), Thomas Davis, Julius Peppers — all those guys — I think the biggest thing you can do is learn from them, and see how they approach things, and take the good things from them, and make them into your own formula," McCaffrey said. 

"Will I take a more vocal role? I don't think I've waited on anybody to take a more vocal role. I think there's multiple ways to lead. Obviously, as one of the leaders on the team you have to be vocal — and I will."

New beginnings

Monday marked the start of the Panthers' virtual offseason program, and with it came a fresh start for McCaffrey and everyone else on the team. 

While the Panthers didn't begin by going all-in on the program, opting to let players handle their own workouts instead of hosting virtual group lifts, the team is utilizing the opportunities to dive into the playbook.

McCaffrey said Monday began just like any typical day during Phase I: with a team meeting followed by smaller meetings with position groups. But instead of walking across the hall to the running backs room, McCaffrey simply joined a different video call.

"It was great. It seemed like it was just like a normal day, just without being in the facility," McCaffrey said. "Everybody's on the same page and everybody's learning it the same way, so it was a good day."

"We have such a new team, a new energy in the building — well, I guess on the computer screen, not in the building," McCaffrey continued with a laugh. "It is nice just having some fresh air and knowing that everybody's starting from scratch. I think that's important and that there's not one person who's exempt of that."

The virtual meetings were the first opportunity for the players to actually get a chance to talk Xs and Os with their new coaches, and McCaffrey said he was looking forward to diving deeper into a new system with offensive coordinator Joe Brady.

"You can definitely tell that he's such a unique mind when it comes to offensive football," McCaffrey said. "And he puts his players in the best position that he can — look at what he did at LSU. So I'm really excited to play for him and work with him."

As different as a virtual offseason may be, McCaffrey still has the same lofty expectations of himself and his teammates, because they're not the only ones having to adapt.

"Everyone in the league is going through the same thing," McCaffrey said. "We can't start making excuses for ourselves just because we're talking over a camera. I think it's really important that we still train, follow all the workouts, take care of our bodies, and do everything we can to be detailed in our playbook."

Working from home

While McCaffrey has been holed up at home with his family for weeks, the start of the virtual offseason program means his work from home experience is just getting started.

"I'm very fortunate with the set up here," McCaffrey said. "I have everything I need."

A field for drill work? Check. Exercise equipment? Check. Two Division-I quarterbacks? Check and check.

McCaffrey's two younger brothers, Dylan and Luke, are college quarterbacks at Michigan and Nebraska, respectively, which makes it easy for CMC to make sure he always has someone to feed him the ball.

"I've been making the most out of being able to throw with them, workout with them," McCaffrey said. "I've been treating this like it's OTAs, so for me, it's been great."

A first-round pick in 2017, McCaffrey has already set a number of franchise records as he signs a contract extension through 2025 with the Panthers.

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