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Panthers put wraps on successful offseason

CHARLOTTE – Head coach Ron Rivera oftentimes refers to the NFL as a production-based business.

His Panthers took care of business once again Thursday on the final day of their nine-week offseason program, wrapping up an offseason that was as productive as pro football in the spring can be.

"There were a lot of positives that came out of this, and it wasn't just these three days," Rivera said, referring to the minicamp that capped the offseason program. "I was very pleased with the effort we got throughout, and there were some really good things today that were the culmination of what we've been doing throughout the phases.

"I was very pleased with their effort and attitude, with the way they gave us everything that they had. I'm very excited about it."

Tight end Ben Hartsock called it his most productive offseason with the Panthers, and there was plenty to go around. Safety Charles Godfrey loved the aggressive approach shown throughout by the secondary ("We were flying around," he said), while wide receiver Brandon LaFell liked what the offense accomplished against that defense.

"We've got one of the best defenses in the league, so if we can move the ball against these guys, we have to feel good about ourselves," LaFell said. "We progressed week by week. We got better.

"We had a lot of focus and really came together as a team, as an offense. The new guys learned the system pretty fast, and they can help us move the ball better. If we continue to do this through training camp, it should be a good season for us."

New guys on offense like wide receivers Ted Ginn and Domenik Hixon were just arriving in town when the Panthers began their offseason program April 15 with a couple of weeks of conditioning work. Nearly 20 rookies joined the roster over the next few weeks through the draft and undrafted signings, and the team has taken shape from there.

"The players have been terrific since we hit the field," first-year general manager Dave Gettleman said. "There's a sense of urgency amongst the players, and Cam (Newton) has had a really good spring in all facets of the game.

"At the end of the day, this is a club that understands when it's time to go to work. They've really had a heck of a spring."

It's been a long but productive spring for Gettleman, who went to work long before the offseason program commenced. After navigating a tricky salary-cap situation and targeting proven free agents at key positions like defensive backs Drayton Florence and D.J. Moore and linebacker Chase Blackburn, Gettleman helped transform the interior of the Panthers' defensive line through the draft.

"I thought we had a real solid offseason," Gettleman said. "We obviously had issues early on, and we addressed them. We've come through the other side pretty well. I feel good about the way we're positioned right now.

"Obviously you're not going to know until training camp when the pads go on. You just don't know until then, but we feel like we're really strong in some spots, important spots. I really feel good about where we are."

Officially, a significant break is up next for the Panthers, who will next come together at training camp in late July. Unofficially, though, the work never stops.

"You want to give your body a couple of days off, but you've still got to prepare every day like we're still doing offseason workouts," LaFell said. "I'll work out once or twice a day to get prepared for training camp and stay in the playbook. You're off, but at the same time you're still working."

Armed with that attitude, the Panthers hope their productive offseason will carry over to the preseason and eventually to the regular season.

"I'm excited about this football team" Rivera said. "I look forward to coming together in Spartanburg and putting the pads on and seeing exactly where we are. We didn't have pads on out here, but we saw some good things. It is a different challenge, though, once you put the pads on.

"We'll see exactly where we are and how good we can become."

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