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Carolina Panthers

Matt Rhule and Scott Fitterer learning more about each other

Matt Rhule, Scott Fitterer

CHARLOTTE — There weren't a lot of details about the Panthers' plans to be discovered Friday.

Pickled eggs, yes. Draft strategies, no.

At least we learned that Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and general manager Scott Fitterer are getting to know each other better, as they sat for this year's pre-draft press conference. It's the annual exercise of saying as little as possible, in as many words as possible, to take up more time.

And they nailed it.

For the record, Fitterer didn't rule out using the eighth pick on a player. Or trading back, as long as it wasn't too far. He did go so far as to mention that they had 16 players with first-round grades on their draft board, and that the overall board contains 155 names, down from the thousand or so players they've evaluated. That was the extent of the specifics.

Beyond that, a theme emerged about the two of them building a partnership as Rhule and Fitterer go into their first draft together.

Fitterer drew some laughs when he outed Rhule as enjoying pickled eggs. Rhule talked about finding out that Fitterer can sleep on any plane, the benefit of a life spent on the road scouting.

But back to the eggs.

When the two of them were in Fargo, N.D. for quarterback Trey Lance's pro day, they took some local advice and tried something new.

Pickled eggs

"I don't like pickled eggs, just want make sure everyone understands that," Rhule said with a laugh. "The people in Fargo are amazing, absolutely amazing. Where we went to dinner, they said that was one of their delicacies, so I ordered it, and I ate it, and you know what, if I go back to Fargo, I'm getting them again."

"It was terrible," Fitterer said with a shake of his head. "It was awful."

Regional gastronomy aside, the two have been working through the process of learning each other's preferences as they try to put a team together. When Fitterer was in Seattle, they had templates for players, such as looking for cornerbacks with 32-inch arms or longer. Those requirements might be different here, but the key is that they're each learning what the other wants.

"To me, it's all about vision," Rhule said. "It's about the Carolina Panthers, from me to Scott to every coach to every scout, understanding the vision of the type of player we want, the type of team we want to build, and the vision at each position. When people see the vision the same way, they might not agree on the player, but they understand the vision, and you end up bringing in the right players.

"I think it's been unbelievably collaborative; I never want group-think. I don't want it on our coaching staff. I'm sure Scott doesn't want it on his personnel staff. If we all think the same, no one's thinking. But what we do want is discussion, conversation. People say collaboration. Sometimes collaboration is disagreeing and arguing. So I think we have a great thing going."

As they learn each other, they'll be able to refine their process, and push through the areas in which a coach and scout will inevitably disagree.

Until then, they'll always have the pickled eggs in Fargo.

View pictures of all of Carolina's first-round draft picks back to 2002 when Carolina picked Julius Peppers second overall.

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