CHARLOTTE — Other than the minicamp that closes the offseason program in mid-June, all of the offseason workouts at Bank of America Stadium are voluntary.
The Panthers have had a lot of volunteers.
"I hope it just means they enjoy being around each other," Rhule said. "You can train anywhere, but the biggest thing is I believe you build teams through shared experiences. You build a team by being around each other, by doing things you like to do and don't like to do together. Our staff never really got to know each other until after the year, until we went to the Senior Bowl. We were restricted; we weren't allowed to have three or four guys go to dinner. Now is a great time to me, to build some kind of unity amongst the staff, unity amongst the team, so we know everybody in the building is there for one purpose.
"I understand when guys aren't here, everyone has their own stuff to deal with, but when guys are here, it just makes it more fun."
Of course, the kind of turnover the Panthers had this offseason makes this kind of work extremely helpful, as there are plenty of new parts fitting into new roles.
Running back Christian McCaffrey — himself glad to be healthy enough to participate after a lost 2020 season — said he enjoyed the process.
"We have such a young team, have so many new guys; The vets on this team are first-year Carolina Panthers players," McCaffrey said. "It's very important that we get to gather, we start to get to know each other, and we formulate that bond. But also just get reps. It's important that we're throwing with the quarterback. It's important that we're throwing with the quarterback, it's important that the defense is communicating the checks together.
"Having this time for us is so valuable. It's fun too. It's fun to be able to be back in the locker room and be around guys and just be able to play football."
Rhule knows there will be more absences throughout the OTA season, as players balance family commitments of their own.
The Panthers had a few players limited during the practice position, wearing the red jerseys for players coming off injuries.
"All in all, our health will be pretty good once training camp starts," Rhule said.
READY FOR NORMAL
Rhule was also upbeat about a pair of news items from Monday, that the Panthers would play in front of a full-capacity Bank of America Stadium at games this year, and that training camp would return to Wofford University in Spartanburg, S.C.
The Panthers stayed at home last summer because of the pandemic, working out at the regular facility rather than the month-long opportunity to sequester themselves in football.
"I would say the prevailing feeling from the veterans was, they didn't realize how much they wanted it, needed it, enjoyed the time together until it was taken away from them last year," Rhule said of training camp.
McCaffrey alluded to the possibility of doing so in the future (he has hinted at wearing 5 on social media), but said Tuesday that was not imminent.
"That won't be this year," he said.
Players who change to a single-digit number this year were required to buy up the inventory of their existing jerseys, and for a player of McCaffrey's popularity, that would have been a sizable amount. They can make the change next year at no cost.
— Rhule mentioned the possibility of joint workouts with the Colts during the preseason, but said no arrangements were final as they await guidance from the league.
View photos from Tuesday's practice at Carolina's OTAs in Charlotte, N.C.