SPARTANBURG, S.C. – After two days away to spend time with his family and attend his older brother's funeral, head coach Ron Rivera returned to the practice fields at Wofford College on Monday.
Rivera actually re-joined the team in Spartanburg last night and was happy to get back to work.
"It was good," Rivera said. "I got back yesterday and was able to make the team meeting and be in there with the guys. The response I've gotten from the players, the coaches, the organization and Mr. (Jerry) Richardson and the support he gave us has been tremendous. And then the fans – the fans have been tremendous as well. I really do appreciate it. It's tough being in a situation like that. But being able to be there for my parents and the rest of my family was pretty good."
Rivera returned in time for the hottest practice thus far, and several veterans, including center Ryan Kalil, linebacker Thomas Davis, running back Jonathan Stewart, safety Roman Harper, wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, were given the day off.
Kalil's absence created some shuffling along the offensive line.
"We worked a whole bunch of different guys," Rivera said. "Taking Ryan Kalil out, we wanted to take a real good look at Mike Remmers at center and thought he did a nice job. Amini Silatolu got to play a little with the first bunch at left tackle and thought he did good. Daryl Williams got an opportunity with the first bunch at right tackle (with Remmers playing center), and he struggled early but he settled in and got better and better.
"It's a good group. I think it's going to be one of the more competitive groups that we've had since I've been here."
With Davis watching from the sideline, first-round draft choice Shaq Thompson made the most of an extended opportunity with the first-team defense.
"Shaq understands the game," Rivera said. "I really like his athleticism. It really shows. He's got to continue to show that progress and just keep working hard. He did a really nice job."
The second consecutive day in pads was a productive one for the Panthers, but Rivera was very cognizant of the heat – trainers told him the heat index was 109 – and he adjusted practice accordingly.
"I got a little concerned at the end of practice," Rivera said. "We cut a couple things out just because it got warm. It got tough. This was their fourth practice in a row. We were just being careful."
The head coach hopes his players make the most of their day off Tuesday before they resume practice Wednesday.
"After four days of good work it will be a plus for our guys to get off their feet," Rivera said. "Hopefully they will rest, they will rehydrate and replenish by eating and drinking properly."
View the top photos from the fourth practice of training camp at Wofford College.