Panthers enjoy best practice to date

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – When head coach Ron Rivera described the vibe that surrounded the Panthers' latest training camp practice Tuesday, he added a few vowels.

"We had a lot of 'enthooosiasm' out there," Rivera said.

The tenor left Rivera and the Panthers energized – and encouraged - heading into the players' day off.

"I was very pleased," Rivera said. "It was a little bit of fun to start practice, and they carried that energy level and kept it up throughout practice.

"I told them, 'We got better today.' With that kind of practice, you give yourself a chance to get better."

Rivera didn't appear as "enthooosiastic" about practice Monday, giving the players a thought or two to chew on at the end. They clearly took his message to heart come Tuesday.

"After the first period I got them back together and said, 'Hey guys, I get on you when it's not what we want, so I want to let you know that's exactly what we want,' " Rivera said. "They carried that the rest of practice."

The uplifting day started with linebacker Thomas Davis telling Rivera that it was going to be an "enthusiasm day." That prompted Rivera to turn to tackle Byron Bell, a gentle giant that has a way of revving up his teammates, and ask him to address the team before practice. And after practice.

"I went to Byron, and he was ready to roll," Rivera said. "He has a certain element of 'enthooosiasm.' That's his quote, and that's why I chose him. Also in this part of his career, it's time for him to step up.

"I also let him break the team down. I told the guys, 'He started it. Let him finish it.' He did heck a job for us."

Bell's message even fired up a teammate not easily moved – literally or figuratively.

"He got me real pumped," defensive tackle Star Lotulelei said. "I'm not a guy that gets excited about too much stuff, but Byron got the whole team going. I think that's what led to us coming out and going strong."

It all added up to what Rivera termed the best practice of camp so far, one that puts the Panthers in position to pick up where they left off when they return to the practice field Thursday at 9:25 a.m.

"Today was a great practice on both sides," cornerback Melvin White said. "We got after it with the tempo from the start to the finish. We were all over the field on the defensive side and the offensive side."

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