In keeping with social distancing guidelines, recently signed linebacker Tahir Whitehead on Monday hosted a virtual press conference from his home in Atlanta. Instead of chatting from the comfort of his couch, Whitehead was in his backyard.
The reasoning was simple.
"Had to get away from the little ones," Whitehead joked. "I've got four little boys in the house that that's all you would've heard if I stayed inside."
With boys ranging from 11 years old to 11 days old, Whitehead and his wife, Shannon, have a lot going on with everyone stuck under the same roof. But Whitehead is also still trying to prepare for his future with the Panthers.
Putting in the work
Some players are having a hard time adjusting to training from home while during this quarantine period, but the setup isn't all that new for Whitehead, a self-described homebody.
"For the past five years pretty much I've worked out at home for the most part," he said. "In the offseason, I try to really spend as much time as possible with my family, being as though once the season comes around, I'm hunkered down in grind mode as far as being at the facility and getting home pretty late."
Whether it's lifting weights, practicing his linebacker drops in the backyard or jumping rope, Whitehead is trying to vary his regimen. Lately, he's added a Peloton bike to the mix.
"I ride on that for about 30 minutes or so," Whitehead said. "I have a few teammates that've tried to challenge me on there, so I think I have a challenge later. We'll see how that goes."
After years of practice, Whitehead knows that location is not a limitation.
"No matter if you're in your high school weight room, in your basement working out or you're in a top-notch training facility," he said, "the work still has to be done."
Inside or outside?
During Whitehead's previous eight seasons, he saw action at both inside and outside linebacker. But right now, Whitehead and the Panthers aren't committing him to either spot.
"Because I can play any position pretty much, I'm versatile in that sense, it hasn't really been something that's been racking my brain," Whitehead said. "I really didn't want to reach out to them (the coaches) and pin them down. I'm just playing it by ear. I know I'm pretty much comfortable playing inside or outside, so whenever they let me know, 'Hey, we want you to play this,' then I'm rolling with it."
In 2016 as an inside backer, Whitehead recorded a career-high 132 tackles. Since then, he's topped the 100-tackle mark and led his team in each of the following three seasons.
A Rhule reunion
According to Whitehead, one of the biggest reasons he chose to come to Carolina was because of the opportunity to reunite with Matt Rhule.
"I can't harp on it enough, he's a players coach," Whitehead said of Rhule, who served as offensive coordinator, among other duties, during Whitehead's time at Temple.
"He's going to make sure that he's getting the best from his team. At the end of the day, all he really asks from you is accountability and taking ownership in your actions."
Whitehead recalled a story that demonstrated just how committed Rhule is to make sure his players reach their potential:
Back in those Temple days, Rhule came out to a practice suited up in a helmet and shoulder pads. He wanted to amp up the energy. So he then hopped into the middle of a "Bull in the Ring" drill and started calling out players to take him on.
"It was like, 'OK, this is the type of guy you want to have on your team, you'll go to battle for because he's invested in the team,'" Whitehead said. "He showed exactly that way back when."
About that jersey number
If you've seen Whitehead play, you may know he wore No. 59 with both the Lions and Raiders. And if you've checked out a Panthers game in the last eight years, you'll know 59 has been a pretty significant number.
With linebacker Luke Kuechly retiring earlier this year, the number is currently vacant. Of course, the fan base probably isn't eager to see someone else wearing No. 59 anytime soon, a fact Whitehead likely understands.
"I haven't really even thought about it too much," he said. "I'm not really too hung up on the number, I'm just ready to go out there, and at this point, start training and get around the fellas, my teammates, the coaching staff and really just start understanding the scheme and go out there and win some games."