CHARLOTTE – The rain came down in sheets, but neither Panthers fans nor Carolina's players showed any signs of dampened spirits.
"It was pouring down rain when we came on the field, and there were so many people in the stands," fullback Mike Tolbert said following Friday night's Fan Fest at Bank of America Stadium. "That's support, for them to stick through that and watch us practice. Hopefully we did them proud."
More than 40,000 fans headed home happy after a physical practice and a dazzling fireworks extravaganza. The Panthers' head coach headed home happy, too.
"It was great to have our fans to come out and bring the energy like they did. We really do appreciate them hanging out in the rain," Rivera said. "It was well worth it as far as I was concerned. We got a lot of good work out of today.
"The guys practiced hard today, and they get a day off tomorrow, which they deserve. They'll be able to come back energized in a couple of days."
Late in practice, quarterback Cam Newton energized the crowd as only he can, directing the fans much like he commands the huddle. He got the wave going in various forms, and the crowd followed his lead but also added its own touch – a rousing chant of "MVP! MVP!"
"He has made Charlotte his own," Rivera said of the NFL's reigning MVP, "and they have really embraced him."
View photos from practice at Bank of America Stadium.