CHARLOTTE – Monday morning marks the beginning of the work week for most, and Monday morning quarterbacks who claim the Carolina Panthers as their favorite team had reason to whistle while they worked.
The Panthers themselves also had a little pep in their step upon their return to work – even on a day when they sometimes aren't asked to come into the office.
"We're setting the tone," head coach Ron Rivera said of his decision to not grant his team an extra day off following Sunday's victory over the Green Bay Packers. "We've had a couple of 'Victory Mondays,' but the one thing you miss with that is being able to detail certain things. I felt like we missed a couple of details, so I wanted to make sure we came in and really were able to hammer the message across to our guys.
"In fact, I opened my meeting with the guys talking about paying attention to the little things, about being careful because winning does mask some of your warts."
Sunday's victory improved the Panthers to 8-0, but that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. That message wasn't lost on the players even though they're yet to lose a game this season.
"Yesterday was a huge, huge win for us, but there are always things we can improve," right tackle Mike Remmers said. "We weren't perfect. There were some things we've got to get right, so that's why we're in here – to fix those things.
"You can never be satisfied. You've got to continue to get better each and every week. That's our goal."
Remmers said the Monday schedule included a workout and treatment of aches and pains. Many players come in for their physical needs on Mondays even when the team is off, but this Monday also included mental exercises such as a game recap and film review.
"I was glad to come in to get some work in," left tackle Michael Oher said. "We have to get a lot of things corrected and continue to get better."
Rivera wouldn't expect anything less from his offensive linemen specifically, especially given the scene he vividly recalls after the Panthers took control of the NFC's top spot at the season's midpoint with Sunday's triumph.
"When I went around the locker room afterwards to congratulate the guys, from the offensive line in that back corner I'm hearing, 'Coach, we've got to be better,'" Rivera said. "I'm thinking to myself, 'Gosh, we just put up over 400 yards in offense and didn't give up any sacks.' But to hear guys say that, that's a huge plus as far as the type of people that we have."
That workmanlike mentality was already in place before Rivera took over as head coach prior to the 2011 season, but the confidence that the work would pay off didn't exist coming off a 2-14 season. Clearly, that confidence has built over the course of back-to-back division titles and now a major push toward a third one.
"My first couple of years were hard. One of the things I was always concerned with was the look - the body language, the body expression, the looks on their faces, that 'here we go again,'" Rivera said. "We've grown that from our first two seasons to seasons three, four and now five. Our guys have that kind of confidence now, that kind of swagger, but it can't be false bravado where you think you can just show up and people will roll over. That's not going to happen, not in today's football."
And for that reason, with a trip to the 2-6 Tennessee Titans up next, the Panthers were hard at work Monday – one week removed from a Monday Night Football victory and one day removed from knocking off the Packers.
"I'd like for them to enjoy it as long as they can – that being Wednesday morning at eight o'clock when we get back together as a football team," Rivera said. "They deserve that. They've earned that. Our guys have played very well, very hard.
"I love their toughness and how resilient they are, and they must certainly should be commended for that. On the inverse, we still have a long ways to go. We can be better."
View the top photos by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez from Carolina's game against Green Bay.