CHARLOTTE – Nearly every member of the Dallas Cowboys knows all about playing on Thanksgiving Day.
So do nearly all of the Carolina Panthers – kind of.
"I remember when I was a little kid being around my family, eating Thanksgiving dinner and watching football," Carolina cornerback Bene Benwikere. "It's a big stage. It's going to be awesome."
"It's a complete honor to be able to go out there and play on Thanksgiving," added right tackle Mike Remmers. "You know everyone is eating a bunch of food and watching the game – they've got to have the game on. That's always the case around my family."
While the Cowboys have played on all but two Thanksgivings since 1966, the Panthers will play on Thanksgiving for the first time when they visit Dallas. So yes, this is old hat for the Cowboys, but it's not actually the first rodeo for several Panthers.
Twelve players on the 53-man roster – including just-signed long snapper Danny Aiken - have played on Thanksgiving. Just three – wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, cornerback Charles Tillman and safety Roman Harper – have spent Thanksgiving in Dallas.
"I've played on Thanksgiving before. It's always fun," left tackle Michael Oher said. "You want to be at home eating turkey and stuff, but it's fun putting on a show for the country."
Two years ago, Oher was the starting right tackle for the Baltimore Ravens in a dramatic Thanksgiving night game that drew one of the biggest fines in NFL history when Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin impeded the path of Ravens punt returner Jacoby Jones.
That game had a dramatic finish as well – involving two more current Panthers. Reserve offensive lineman Fernando Velasco, asked earlier in the week if he had ever played on Thanksgiving, at first said he hadn't before regrettably remembering.
"Oh yeah," he said. "That's when I ruptured my Achilles."
The Steelers center at the time suffered the injury on Pittsburgh's next-to-last offensive snap. The last snap resulted in a 1-yard touchdown reception by Cotchery that pulled Pittsburgh within 22-20, but the Steelers couldn't convert the two-point conversion and the Ravens held on.
"For us, it's always just about approaching the game, no matter what day it is," said Cotchery, who also played on Thanksgiving at Dallas in 2007 as a member of the New York Jets. "We're really trusting the process and focusing on getting better every day and having it show up on game day."
Two years before that, in 2011, four current Panthers were involved in the Thanksgiving night "HarBowl" - the first meeting of head coaching brothers and a precursor to the Harbaughs' meeting in the Super Bowl the next season. Oher and tight end Ed Dickson played for the victorious Ravens, while wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. and safety Colin Jones lined up for the San Francisco 49ers.
"All I know about Thanksgiving," Dickson said, "is I'm 1-0."
Two Panthers played on Thanksgiving just last year. Defensive end Jared Allen was in the lineup for the Chicago Bears for the traditional early game in Detroit, and wide receiver Kevin Norwood started for the Seattle Seahawks in the night game against the 49ers.
It was the second notable Thanksgiving game for Allen. Last year, he recorded two sacks to pass Lawrence Taylor for 10th on the all-time sack list. In 2006 with the Kansas City Chiefs, he played in the first Thanksgiving night game added to complement the annual home games for the Lions and Cowboys.
"It's a fun game," Allen said. "A cool experience."
Before the night game was added – and before the Panthers franchise was founded – head coach Ron Rivera played linebacker for the Bears on Thanksgiving, losing in Detroit in 1991. Rivera also coached in two Thanksgiving games as an assistant for the Bears, at Detroit in 1997 and at Dallas in 2004.
Rivera hasn't won a Thanksgiving game as a player or coach, but this has been a season built for breaking such streaks.
"As a player, you love to play in Detroit because you play the first game and you get home in time to eat. When you play in latter games, you don't get home in time to eat," Rivera said. "It is nice to be asked to play on Thanksgiving, but our approach has to be that it's just a Thursday game."
Photos from Carolina's loss to Dallas.