SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Cornerback Chris Gamble said the Panthers' secondary is hoping for big things this season, but to get there, they must take care of the little things first.
At Saturday's morning practice, their attention to detail was evident during an individual work period.
First, the defensive backs took turns fielding "ground balls" near the sidelines, balls that the coaches fumbled forward for the players to try to scoop up cleanly, all while being careful to not step out of bounds.
Later, with the safeties working with secondary coach Mike Gillhamer and the corners with secondary coach Ron Milus, the safeties worked on knocking down passes fired into the middle of the end zone. The corners, meanwhile, worked on footwork by going one-on-one against each other.
Next, the safeties worked on tackling techniques, concentrating on getting square with the ball carrier. They also worked on jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage – focusing on keeping their arms inside the receivers' body to avoid a holding penalty and to maintain leverage – and they did a drill where they backpedaled deep into the secondary and attempted to pick off passes.
The corners worked on covering routes, with corners taking turns pretending to be receivers and running routes against their fellow corners. Later, they lined up against two "receivers" to work on the principles of zone coverage.
After completing all the drills in rapid-fire fashion, they moved over to the adjacent field to put all the work into practice with some simulated plays against the quarterbacks and receivers.
Richardson rolls into town: Saturday's morning practice featured an appearance from team owner and founder Jerry Richardson, who tooled around to different parts of practice on a golf cart.
Injured wide receiver Steve Smith acted as his co-pilot in the passenger seat.
"The guys love seeing him. We enjoy it," said head coach John Fox, who took Smith's place in the cart for a couple of minutes to catch up with Richardson. "Luckily Steve Smith had him in the right areas of the field so we didn't get him hurt.
"It's always good to see him."
Tickets going fast: All of the single-game tickets for the Panthers' game against the Chicago Bears on Oct. 10 sold out Saturday, the first day they were made available to the public.
Phil Youtsey, director of ticketing, said that less than 1,500 tickets remain for visits from the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints (Nov. 7) and the Baltimore Ravens (Nov. 21), and less than 2,000 remain for the Cincinnati Bengals (Sept. 26).
Approximately 7,000 tickets went on sale for each of the Panthers' 10 home games on Saturday. The Panthers have sold out their last 73 games at Bank of America Stadium and 141 of the 143 games played there all-time.
"We thank the fans for their tremendous support," Youtsey said. "We're pleased with the pace of sales and look forward to selling out all our games.
"Fans should act quickly in order to get an opportunity to see the Panthers this season."
Tickets can be purchased via Ticketmaster Charge-By-Phone at 1-800-745-3000; at www.ticketmaster.com; and at Ticketmaster Ticket Centers throughout the Carolinas. For a list of ticket centers, call the Charge-By-Phone number.
Jersey boys (and girls): Not surprisingly, Smith's No. 89 jersey was the most common one worn by fans attending Saturday's evening practice at Gibbs Stadium.
There were, however, some less predictable jerseys scattered throughout the stands. The list included Chris Weinke, Nick Goings, Wesley Walls and the late, great Reggie White.
On tap for Sunday: On the heels of the well-attended Back to Football party Saturday, the Panthers will keep the fun flowing with Family Fun Day on Sunday.
The offerings will include the popular Kids Combine, a drop-in event that will run from 2-6 p.m., along with several hands-on military displays presented by the South Carolina National Guard.
The festivities are built around the Panthers' lone Sunday practice, which kicks off at 3 p.m.
The Panthers will also offer another Family Fun Day on Sunday, Aug. 15.