CHARLOTTE – When head coach Ron Rivera pulled a fast one on his team Sunday by first saying he'd see them Monday before calling an audible and rewarding them with a "Victory Monday," quarterback Cam Newton looked as happy as anybody.
But come Monday, Rivera did see Newton – and more than half his teammates.
"I gave them 'Victory Monday,' but guys came in. We still had about 35 guys come in," Rivera said. "Our quarterback came in here today to study, and there are a group of guys with Luke (Kuechly) that will come in and break down tape.
"Those are the things you have to do if you want to be ready for the next go-around. You don't have to do it, but you have to be willing to do it. That's what we've got right now – a group of guys that are willing to do things."
Rivera gave the players Monday off both as appreciation for their effort in Sunday's 27-10 victory at Tennessee but also in anticipation of their needs as a team. With this Sunday's visit by Washington to be followed by a Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas, the 9-0 Panthers will play three games in 12 days.
"We want the players to be rejuvenated each week by trying to find ways for them to recover," Rivera said. "It's a matter of how they feel coming up to game time. So far we've been good with that, and we're going to continue to try to find ways to make sure they're rested, rehydrated and focused on the next game."
In addition to players choosing to come in Monday to get mentally prepared for the next game, many showed up to begin getting physically prepared. Rivera said running backs Fozzy Whittaker and Mike Tolbert, cornerback Charles Tillman and wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr., were among the Panthers to suffer minor injuries against the Titans, but everyone has to deal with some wear and tear every week.
"We came out of the game relatively well. We have some bumps and nicks and bruises, and that's the unglamorous portion of it," Rivera said. "You see guys in the hot tub, guys in the ice tub, getting extra treatment. There will be probably 10 guys coming back around two or three o'clock to get some extra treatment, and there will be some guys here tomorrow on their official day off getting treatment."
Rivera said that two starters who weren't able to play against the Titans continue to recover from hamstring injuries. Left guard Andrew Norwell, who missed the last two games, could practice some Wednesday. Defensive end Charles Johnson, on injured reserve/designated for return since suffering his injury in Week 3, has been eligible to practice since last week and will be eligible to return to game action against the Cowboys.
"Andrew will probably get an opportunity to work a little bit Wednesday to see where he is. How that goes will determine how much work he gets Thursday," Rivera said. "Charles is progressing, working on the side and getting ready to roll. We'll hopefully get him back next week, ready to go."
Johnson has paid his own way to attend the Panthers' last two road games, an act that relates to another reason why so many players showed up at Bank of America Stadium on a bonus day off.
"They enjoy each other," Rivera said. "It's an opportunity for them to continue to bond as a football team and as young men."
View the top photos by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez from Carolina's game against Tennessee.