CHARLOTTE – For the first time in franchise history, the Panthers are following a Thursday night game with a Monday night game, giving them the next best thing to a bye with 11 days between games.
They returned to work Wednesday recharged and determined to take advantage.
"It gave us a chance to refresh and get ready for the second half of the season," linebacker Luke Kuechly said. "It was relaxing. Coach did a good job giving us some time off."
Kuechly said he didn't watch any football last Sunday, and he might not watch any this Sunday either with the team traveling to Philadelphia for a Monday Night Football showdown against the Eagles.
Following a disappointing loss to New Orleans last Thursday that dropped Carolina out of first place in the NFC South for the first time all season, the Panthers want to put together a performance worth watching against the NFC East-leading Eagles.
"We've got a big game coming up Monday night, and we've got to take care of our business," head coach Ron Rivera said. "It's a good football team we're going up to play against, but we're a good enough football team to win this game."
That's a conclusion Rivera drew from the self-scouting he did during the break. The Panthers have lost three consecutive games, but Rivera's review of the last couple of games in particular revealed positives that the scoreboard didn't.
"If you look at what we did against Seattle and how we played early against the Saints, the indication is there that we're headed in that direction," Rivera said. "There were moments that showed that.
"There are some little things that some of our younger guys have got to grow into as far as route running, as far as protection, things like that. These are things that we as a group have to develop together. Having so many young guys play, it's tough, but we're professionals. We've got to overcome those things."
The mini-bye should allow the Panthers to get some more experienced players back from injury in time for the Eagles game, among them starting offensive linemen Byron Bell and Amini Silatolu and starting safety Thomas DeCoud.
It also allowed players that haven't missed any playing time of late, like quarterback Cam Newton, a chance to heal some bumps and bruises and clear their heads.
"I felt like I was missing something when I was actually able to sleep past nine o'clock, but it was good for the body," Newton said. "It felt good."
Rivera said the positive impact of the break showed up Wednesday. Even more importantly, the Panthers need for it to show up Monday.
"The practice tempo was really good," Rivera said. "We're in a good situation, most certainly within striking distance, but we've got to start making hay. We've got to start taking advantage of every opportunity we have."
OFF THE FIELD: Panthers players, coaches and staff attended an NFL domestic violence education session Wednesday. Personnel from the NFL office, in conjunction with local experts in the field, spoke to participants about how to address domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse concerns impacting them or those around them. In September, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that all league employees would receive domestic violence prevention training.