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Notebook: Thomas Brown talks earning game ball after first game as play-caller

Bryce Young, Thomas Brown

CHARLOTTE – Thomas Brown said he initially went into "freeze mode" when he realized Frank Reich honored him with a game ball after calling his first game Sunday – the Panthers' first win over Houston.

Carolina's first-year offensive coordinator anticipated hearing his head coach rattle off another player to honor after the 15-13 victory.

Instead, Reich went to his newly minted play-caller.

"It was huge," Brown said. "First of all, I had no idea he was talking about me anyway. I was kind of like one of the last guys coming in the locker room because, normally, win or lose, I'm outside of the locker room for the most part. When the guys are coming in, I'll shake everybody's hand, give everybody hugs before they come in to listen to Frank's speech.

"When he was talking, I'm thinking he's about to give it to a different player."

But the former quarterback passed the ball off to a former running back, literally handing over the ball after handing over play-calling duties before the Panthers' Week 7 bye, a responsibility he'd held through the first stretch of the season.

Brown continued to express gratitude for that opportunity, as he has since he was given the duties just over two weeks ago.

"Our relationship, our dynamic is continuing to grow from a day-in, day-out standpoint," Brown said. "To trust me, to give me an opportunity for the job, like I said before, it's huge. People rarely voluntarily give up the opportunity to call plays. … It was 100 percent his decision. So it means a whole lot to have the opportunity to do my role (and), from a responsibility standpoint, help this team win as much as possible."

Brown said he placed the ball on a shelf in his home beside the television, near another "pretty nice trophy" that "you can probably imagine." (He won a Super Bowl as assistant coach/running backs with the Rams in 2021.)

"It was a surprise for me to get that, so (I'm) appreciative of Frank giving me that opportunity," Brown said. "But you know, I've got a short-term memory when it comes to anything, good or bad, so ready to move on toward the Colts."

– Brown said he would always criticize himself more than anyone else would, so after his first win as a play-caller, he is focusing on improving over thinking about what went well – despite his first outing resulting in a win.

"We won; that's the most important thing I was focused on," Brown said. "That's our overall goal, week in and week out. I'm super critical of everything that I do every single day, which there's some good and bad with that. … I've spent more time focusing on how I can be better, how to improve, than anything that went well.

"The goal is always focused on how can I put this team, this offense, these players in the best spot to make plays for us."

– Brown said Reich also received a game ball after his first win as the Panthers' head coach.

As for who bestowed it upon the head coach?

David Tepper, team's owner, of course.

"Mr Tepper – as he should," Brown said.

– Special teams coordinator Chris Tabor commented on Raheem Blackshear's explosive return to kickoff return duties, as he brought back three kicks against the Texans for an average of 35.67 yards per return (including a 52-yard long) last week.

Blackshear is replacing the injured Laviska Shenault Jr. in the role, as he has since Shenault left the Dolphins game with an ankle injury he is still nursing.

He has since returned four kickoffs – one for 31 yards against Miami and three against the Texans (31 yards, 24 yards, and 52 yards). Blackshear's longest return set the Panthers up at Houston's 47-yard line.

"They believe in Raheem, number one," Tabor said of Blackshear's success. "They believed in Laviska when he was back there. But I really liked the way that we blocked. I thought we were physical; I thought that the sets were really good. And it's one of those things; you only get so many opportunities, and you never know when it's going to come.

"There it was. Guys took advantage of it. And I'm glad we got a big return there."

– Defensive coordinator Ejiro Evero shared his respect for the Colts' offense – even without the added challenge of facing physical quarterback Anthony Richardson, the rookie who sustained a season-ending shoulder injury earlier this year.

Indianapolis is rolling with Gardner Minshew, and even though the quarterback run threat isn't as strong with Minshew instead of Richardson, Evero said there are still plenty of things to prepare for.

"There's still RPOs, they're still running the ball," he said. "A lot of the pass concepts are still the same. (Minshew) has a lot of experience. He's got a lot of confidence. So he's going to be a great challenge for us."

He also complimented the consistency of running backs Zack Moss and Jonathan Taylor.

"We've got to be ready," Evero said. "They're big backs. They're hard to tackle. Their O-line does a great job working together. They have a good scheme, not overly complex, but execution is at a high, high level."

View photos from the Panthers' practice on Thursday.

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