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Notebook: Black helmets are back

Chuba Hubbard

CHARLOTTE — The Panthers took the practice field in the black helmets they'll wear Sunday against the Falcons, but the mood of the season has kept it from becoming as much of a big deal.

Of course, interim coach Chris Tabor might not be the guy to ask anyway.

When a well-meaning reporter looking for an easy sound bite asked Tabor Wednesday if he was excited about the black helmets, Tabor shrugged.

"Sure," Tabor said. "It's protective gear."

He admitted the team's color palette wasn't his primary focus, and his daily wardrobe of the sweats the equipment staff provides him indicates that as well.

"I have no comment on that. I really don't. It's a nice look," Tabor eventually mustered. "As you can tell, I'm really not into fashion. My wife says she wished I could be a little better in fashion, but I'm not, but that's all I have on that."

Quarterback Bryce Young was slightly more enthusiastic, since this is his first chance to wear the alternate helmet, which came out once last year against the Falcons here as well. The Panthers won that one 25-15 on a rainy night.

"I'm a big fan, big fan," he said. "Very excited for them."

Black helmet

— Tabor's got a whole team to worry about at the moment, but the blocked punt from last week continues to annoy him. 

While it was technically a fumble by punter Johnny Hekker since the ball hadn't hit his foot yet (dropping their rushing totals unfairly from 215 yards to 204), the special teams coordinator dismisses that, considering it a block since it was returned for a game-shifting touchdown.

"I think first and foremost, when you have a mistake, you've got to really, as bad as it stinks, you have to re-evaluate and say, was it a schematic thing or was it just an error?" Tabor said. "And then I think once you diagnose that problem, it probably helps you where you want to go.

"But at the same time, I mean, you got to perform better and that still hurts. So, for us, Sunday can't get here fast enough to see if we've rectified it."

Speaking of hurt, Hekker was included on the injury report with a right shin injury. He had a could of scratches there but was listed as a full participant on the report. 

"I hope I survive," Hekker deadpanned.

— While outside linebacker Brian Burns was held out of practice Wednesday, Tabor didn't indicate an extreme amount of concern about his status for Sunday's game. 

"I'm not," he said. "Typical veteran, you know, just a little sore. I think he'll be fine."

Tabor said there was a bit of a season sickness going through the locker room, and three players were listed as out on Wednesday's injury report with "illness."

Brian Burns, Chris Tabor

— The Panthers added tight end Chris Pierce to the practice squad Wednesday, adding some depth at the position.

With Hayden Hurst still in the concussion protocol and Ian Thomas recovering from an ankle injury, they needed numbers there.

Pierce is a former Vanderbilt wide receiver who spent last year on the Cardinals practice squad but was released this summer.

View photos from the Panthers' practice on Wednesday in Week 15.

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