CHARLOTTE – Frank Reich said in Monday's post-Minnesota press conference that he knows the locker room leadership is part of what could turn an 0-4 start around.
He knows the messaging and preparation are part of it, too.
"It's not a one-man job; it's the leadership of the locker room and how important it is for them to stick together," Reich said. "We talk a lot about our identity and a lot of different ways internally. I have a lot of confidence that, no matter whether we win every game or lose every game, this team and the players that are here know how to handle themselves, which is why I believe good things are ahead."
Reich said he knows the Panthers aren't far from being successful, and if they find consistency and correct mistakes, they don't have to wait for results. They can win now.
"In one respect, we're close; in other respects, we're making too many mistakes to even say that," Reich said. "But when we get those things corrected, I believe it can get the results that we want now. This doesn't have to be wait for results. We can get those results now."
The Panthers led for the first part of an eventual 21-13 loss to Minnesota on Sunday, thanks to Sam Franklin Jr.'s momentum-grabbing 99-yard interception return for a touchdown on the Vikings' opening drive. Kicker Eddy Piñeiro's career-long 56-yard field goal put them up 10-0 in the first half, and they didn't lose the lead until an offensive mistake led to a go-ahead Vikings touchdown.
Rookie quarterback Bryce Young fumbled on a sack (one of five taken in the second half) and watched as the ball was taken down for a touchdown.
Just before the game's end, Young led what could have been the game-winning drive (had the Panthers scored a touchdown and converted a 2-point conversion), but sacks and miscues later, Carolina was left winless in its first four.
"There's plenty of good things on tape in all three phases," Reich said. "The thing that we're looking for is more consistency. We talked about it in meetings today. There's two ways to get better. That's the skills and plays that you make; just continue to make those and be more consistent with those. But then also just reducing mistakes, coaching and playing, finding ways to eliminate mistakes that we make that are kind of pulling us in the opposite direction."
Reich said everyone's aligned in wanting to win games, and he sees the rest of the season as an opportunity to get better. They just need to start it sooner.
"I believe we are a young team that is developing and growing, even though we're here to win now," Reich said. "We are growing and developing, and that doesn't have to wait a year. We can grow in season. We have a new staff, a lot of turnover in the roster. So maybe more of an opportunity for us to meld and mesh together as the season goes on. Looking forward to that. And we know it's our responsibility to give the fans something to cheer about. We look forward to doing that."
– Reich commented on what happened on the field after that late hit against Young in the first half, when the rookie quarterback knocked to the ground by Vikings linebacker Jordan Hicks after a false start penalty against Terrace Marshall Jr. killed the play early.
Reich said he used it as a learning opportunity for Young, telling him that he learned to throw the ball down immediately after a play is whistled dead so defenders know the ball is not live.
No flags were thrown for the hit, and Reich said the play wasn't "overly flagrant," so nothing transpired.
"The explanation that the official game was there was some ambiguity in it," Reich said on the no-call. "It wasn't super flagrant. So really, the answer for us is to learn by that. When you have the ball, and it's a dead ball, and you're the quarterback, just throw it on the ground. …
"I'm not sure anybody saw what happened. So listen, there's no doubt in my mind that our guys are going to protect each other. So I think looking at it today, I don't think it was in that mode, looking at it on tape."
– Starting right guard Austin Corbett is eligible to be activated off PUP this week while he recovers from an ACL tear sustained in last year's season finale against New Orleans.
Reich said Corbett's return to practice "could be really soon," but he wasn't sure of the exact timing.
"Looking forward to seeing him back out on the practice field soon," Reich said. "So I would anticipate that as soon as we think he's ready to get out there and practice with us, he'll be out there. And then we have talked about the timeline to get him on the field for a game. Not ready to talk about that just yet."
View all the action from the Panthers' game against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 4.