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Carolina Panthers

Productive practice in the rain

CHARLOTTE – Conditions were far from ideal for Panthers practice Wednesday morning, but the rain didn't dampen the team's spirits in preparation for an important regular season finale.

"It was fun," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I was really encouraged by today's practice. I thought their attentiveness to what we were doing was good, and there was a lot of enthusiasm out there, there really was."

The Panthers hit the practice field earlier than usual in anticipation of the mid-afternoon Belk Bowl being held at Bank of America Stadium. Rivera said he wondered how the schedule change would impact his team, but he came away pleased.

"I was a little concerned about it, but not after how things went yesterday afternoon and this morning," he said. "We were able to get in good work, and the tempo was really good.

"Now we're able to get the guys off their feet. This is the 17th week of the season, so to be able to get them in, get them out and then get them off their feet is a huge plus."

Rivera was asked how the rain-soaked Belk Bowl between North Carolina State and Mississippi State could impact field conditions for Sunday's regular season finale against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Panthers have no plans to re-sod the field other than at midfield in the process of changing out the logos, and Rivera has no concerns.

"I know our crew will do their best job to get that thing ready for us Sunday," Rivera said. "The bottom line is that both teams are going to have to play on it."

Slippery conditions for practice Wednesday dictated that players dealing with leg injuries did not participate. Running back Fozzy Whittaker wouldn't have practiced anyway with the high ankle sprain he suffered Sunday, but the Panthers also didn't risk anything with running back Jonathan Stewart (foot), wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. (knee) and safety Kurt Coleman (foot). Center Ryan Kalil also sat out practice with a stomach flu.

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