CHARLOTTE — On his first day of practice as the interim head coach, Chris Tabor made reference to being "right back in the normal routine" of the day.
Of course, he knows normal is a funny word to use when it's two days after head coach Frank Reich and two assistants were fired, but he's trying to keep things as regular as can be expected.
"I think it is for me and the guys," he said with a shrug when this is pointed out. "The nice thing about the NFL is that you're on a set schedule, and today's Wednesday routine was the same, you know, it started with the special teams meeting to a team meeting to unit meetings, walkthrough, then you go to practice, and now we're going to clean up practice right now and then kind of keep game planning and, and going and then hopefully that'll set us up. . . .
"I understand because there's just been a slight change in some things. But we're still playing football. I told them we're out on the grass and we're playing a kids game played by grown men. So let's have some fun while we do it."
Tabor has a way of keeping things light anyway, whether it's his sideline banter, the nicknames he gives players, or the way he'll sprint down the field with them at times. But he has an easy sense of humor about himself, cracking: "What are we, in Week 12? Seems like Week 72."
(It's actually Week 13. Of 18)
And when he was asked if he'd have weekly meetings with owner David Tepper the way Reich did, he sort of looked around like he wasn't sure and said: "Oh, I don't know. I'm sure if he wants to meet with me, I'll be right there. I'm the employee."
— In his day job as special teams coordinator, Tabor could always defer to the head coach when he was asked about injury statuses or roster moves.
So when he got a question about Jaycee Horn's availability and whether he'd be activated this week, Tabor flashed some self-awareness.
"I would leave it at this, and you'll hate the answer," he said. "It's the process. He's going through it when he's ready to go, he's ready to go."
(He's right, it's not much of an answer.)
Horn was a limited participant in practice again, in the third week of his three-week window to rejoin the 53-man roster.
— New offensive lineman Gabe Jackson was on the practice field Wednesday, about an hour after taking a physical and signing his contract.
He's on the practice squad but could be activated as soon as this week, considering the injury situation at the position.
Brett Toth and rookie Nash Jensen were the last healthy guards available last week after Chandler Zavala and Cade Mays left with injuries. Zavala went on IR Wednesday and is out for the season with a knee injury, while Mays was at least on the practice field in a limited capacity.
The Panthers do have Justin McCray around on the practice sqaud as well, offering some stability since he's been here all offseason and has been with line coach James Campen on four different teams. He's played in 79 games, with 29 career starts. But the 32-year-old Jackson's even more experienced, with 130 career starts over nine seasons with the Raiders and Seahawks.
— Since a lot of people are just getting to know Tabor, he's been getitng questions about his philosophy since his promotion on Monday.
"Being a classy, hard-hitting team that plays with a great unity," he said. "So it sounds like a bunch of jumbled words, but classy is we're eliminating penalties, we're doing the right things. We're playing hard. We just keep coming after you, regardless of the score. We just keep playing physical football, and then we do it together: offense, defense, and kicking.
"I would love for us to see complementary football in all three phases, and I hope that's what we do."
View photos from the Panthers' practice on Wednesday.