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Carolina Panthers

Giants game presents fan-tastic platform


Even with the short amount of time afforded him to prepare for the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera can't wait for Thursday night.

The Panthers are embracing the chance to shine in the national spotlight, but Rivera is even more excited about what the primetime event means for supporters beyond the locker room.

"I'm excited about the challenge and the opportunity as a football team, but even more importantly as a city and as a group of fans," Rivera said. "This is great for our fans, to be able to come out and show the country exactly who we are."

The process of the Panthers and their fans building a true homefield advantage at Bank of America Stadium took its latest step Sunday, when a boisterous crowd mostly devoid of New Orleans Saints jerseys helped Carolina clip New Orleans in a crucial game to open the home schedule.

"I was excited about the crowd, and they stepped up at the right moments for us and brought some energy to us," Rivera said. "That's important.

"I've talked about how important homefield advantage is. It makes a difference. It means something to us. And having our fans do the things that they did and the excitement that was out there, that was great."

This is my third season covering the team for, and the buzz surrounding the team this preseason has been greater what surrounded it my first two years in Charlotte combined.

Back at training camp, on the day that the governor declared it Carolina Panthers Day in the state of South Carolina, Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson said he couldn't remember such preseason excitement before.

"The weeks leading up to Houston were pretty exciting," Richardson said, referring to the build-up to the Panthers' appearance in Super Bowl XXXVIII nearly nine years ago, "but never like this in the preseason."

Now is the time for that preseason excitement to carry over into the stands on game day.

The Panthers organization owes an incalculable debt of gratitude to its PSL owners for their commitment – financial and otherwise – toward the success of the franchise. Most of them can't wait to flash their tickets at the stadium gates come game day and settle into their seats to cheer on the Carolinas' team.

The Giants game will be the stadium's 97th consecutive sellout, quite an impressive streak in a day and age when some NFL teams are struggling to fill seats.

Yet, I still haven't seen what I'd like to see and what the players need to see come Thursday: A sea of persistently passionate fans, with empty seats being a temporary condition only when fans head to the concession stand or restroom.

I implore those who have tickets for Thursday night but can't make it to give their tickets to someone who can. I implore fans to arrive early and leave late.

Remember, the eyes of the NFL nation are upon us, and the players down below do feed off what happens in the stands above.

"The vibe is changing, not only with this team but with this whole organization. The fans are building, also," Newton said. "We have to own what is ours. If we feel like we're an elite team, we're going to have to win at home."

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