Strickly Panthers: Heat is on

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What word comes to mind when I think back to my first five training camps with the Carolina Panthers and look forward to my sixth one?

Hot.

The forecast for the first few days at training camp in Spartanburg, S.C., and the forecast back in Charlotte is virtually identical, but all heat is not created equal. It will top out around 90 both places this weekend (a veritable cold snap by recent summer standards), but somehow Spartanburg seems to sizzle a little more.

The sizzle at training camp, however, won't be limited to the at-times-oppressive temperatures. Here are some reasons Panthers training camp should be a hot topic around the water cooler over the next few weeks.

TURNING UP THE HEAT: For those counting down the days until the NFL regular season kicks off, the start of training camp marks a momentous occasion. When the players report to Wofford College on Thursday morning, football will be on the front burner (pun intended) for the next six months. The Panthers' preseason opener will be 15 days away; their regular season opener 45 days away. But the wait for wall-to-wall Panthers coverage is over.

HOT ON THE HEELS: Training camp is about identifying the group of players best equipped to help the Panthers win games come the regular season, and that naturally leads to heated competition. Starting jobs and key reserve roles hang in the balance at almost every position, and the fight for the final few of the 53 roster spots will rage on among the 90 players in camp. Whether you pick out a position group to pay special attention to or pick an underdog player to root for in his quest for a roster spot, training camp battles always add intrigue and intensity to the dog days of summer.

IN HOT PURSUIT: Training camp is a major piece of the puzzle when it comes to the still-to-be-written story of the 2014 Carolina Panthers, one that fans hope will have a storybook ending. Coming off consecutive division titles and their first playoff victory in nine years, the Panthers are in hot pursuit of the ultimate trophy – a pursuit whose roots can be traced back to sultry Spartanburg.

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