CHARLOTTE - Following their weekend off, the Panthers returned to the practice field Monday with a bang.
And a crash. And a boom.
"It was a great practice," head coach Ron Rivera said after the Panthers practiced in full pads for the first time in a couple of weeks. "You don't want to get overly excited about a Monday practice, but it was good.
"It was a lot more crisp than I would have anticipated. I'm very pleased with how it came out."
The Panthers were well-rested after four days off and raring to go with their typical Tuesday off to follow. The team will return to its regular Wednesday schedule in anticipation of Sunday's home game against the Tennessee Titans.
"Guys were out there with a little more bounce in their step, flying around and having some fun with it," defensive end Antwan Applewhite said. "It's probably been about two weeks since we've worn full pads, so getting out there and being able to hit a little bit – especially after four days off – was a pleasant surprise.
"Everybody knows how to block and tackle, but you still need a tune-up every now and then. That's what today was for, about tuning up and getting that physical aspect back into it."
Mentally, the Panthers hit the reset button during their long weekend. They'll enter the second half of the season with a 2-6 record but are approaching it as if they're 0-0.
"It's a clean slate," tight end Greg Olsen said. "Our bye broke at exactly the halfway point. The first half of the season didn't go obviously as well as we hoped, but we've got eight games left, and we want to try to win them all.
"That has to be our goal, but at the same time we've got to start out 1-0. I know it's kind of a cliché, but we've got to take it one game at a time. We've got one more home game before we hit the road for a while, so it would be nice to start the second half with a win against Tennessee."
The Panthers may have put the first half of the season in the rear-view mirror, but that doesn't mean they've forgotten. While the Panthers won just two of their games over the first half of the season despite being outscored by a total of 20 points, the Titans have won four games while being outscored by a total of 13 points.
"It seems like every week we're talking about how close we are to winning – should've, could've, would've," tight end Jeremy Shockey said. "Now we've got to learn from those mistakes and try to not make the same mistake twice."
In a nutshell, that is Rivera's hope for the second half.
"I want to see consistent play more than anything else – that's probably the biggest thing," he said. "Most satisfying, obviously, would be to win eight, to win out, but there's no telling what's going to happen. We most certainly want to be trending up. That's what I want to see at the end of the year – finishing, playing hard, playing fast and playing physical."
Kind of like what he saw at practice Monday.
"We got after it a little bit," linebacker Dan Connor said. "We definitely got better. It's going to steamroll us into Wednesday and into a good week."
QUICK HITS: Practice included cornerback Darius Butler, who returned after his latest trip to Florida to be with his three-month-old daughter, Milan, as she recovers from heart surgery. Butler said she remains in intensive care but was progressing well. … Cornerback Brandon Hogan also practiced. Rivera indicated that the team would decide Tuesday whether to activate Hogan from the Physically Unable to Perform list.