SAN JOSE, Calif. – The palm trees waving and the majestic mountain range in the distance served as reminders that the Carolina Panthers weren't in Charlotte anymore.
Otherwise, it was business as usual.
The Panthers kicked off Super Bowl week with their first practice at San Jose State University on Monday. Every player, including the three who didn't participate in Carolina's last practice at home last Friday, took part in Monday's session. Linebacker Thomas Davis (forearm) and running backs Jonathan Stewart (ankle) and Mike Tolbert (knee) all were in action.
"For the most part, this was a dry run, making sure we understood where we needed to be and the things that we needed to do," head coach Ron Rivera said. "There were a few glitches, but that's why we did what we did today – to take care of all these little things so that when we get ready for the bulk of our practices on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, things should go seamlessly."
The Panthers' opponent, the Denver Broncos, will practice at Stanford University beginning Wednesday. The Broncos visited their practice site Monday to get familiar with their surroudings. Neither team is scheduled to practice Tuesday.
Rivera said the Panthers' game plan for the Broncos was finalized before Carolina headed west.
"That's all done, and now as coaches we're going to refine our work," Rivera said. "We're going to look at practice today and look at the things that need to be corrected and make sure we have the right ideas as far as how to attack Denver."
The temperature difference between San Jose and Charlotte also stood out Monday – but the reverse of what you would expect. When the Panthers began practice around 11 a.m. PT, it was windy and 50 degrees – 20 degrees cooler than it was in Charlotte at the same time. During some drills that didn't require helmets, some players wore them anyway to stay warm.
Otherwise, it seemed much like the Panthers' practices at home throughout the season, with Drake's hit song "Big Rings" blaring at the beginning of practice like it has so many times as players swayed to the beat during stretching.
"Ron tells them to be themselves, and they've done that for 21 weeks," general manager Dave Gettleman said. "There's no reason to think they're not going to do it for 22."
Safety Roman Harper was feeling like himself. Harper left the NFC Championship game when contact with teammate Luke Kuechly caused a flap over his eye that was affixed during Lasik surgery seven years ago to shift out of place. Harper said doctors had never known such a thing to happen, but he now has a second flap in place and is back to normal.
Speaking of seconds, this is the second Super Bowl appearance for Harper, who won Super Bowl XLIV as a member of the New Orleans Saints six years ago.
"This one's even a little more special with it being 50 and all the gold," Harper said. "It's a great opportunity and a great time right now. I'm really excited about it.
"Enjoy it, but understand what we're here to do and focus on what we need to focus on. They're only fun when you win them, so let's go out here and make sure we handle business."
View photos from the Panthers' first practice at San Jose State.