CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - The Carolina Panthers held their annual Fan Fest on Friday night. And although the event was literally dampened by a pre-practice rainstorm, it didn’t deter a crowd that bundled up in ponchos and then saw the Panthers run through their practice and then stage what was an extravagantly good post-practice laser and fireworks show.
The official attendance for Fan Fest at Bank of America?
The Panthers announced a sellout crowd of 62,500 (the middle of the upper decks on both sides of the 73,000-seat stadium weren’t sold). Tickets were $5 each, with the proceeds benefiting Carolina Panthers Charities and its mission to serve the needs of communities across the Carolinas.
As for how many people actually showed up? Maybe 35,000-40,000. The rain obviously deterred a lot of fans who didn’t have much invested in the night besides those $5 tickets.
Those who did show up saw Panthers quarterback Cam Newton back to throwing the ball after taking a scheduled day off Thursday — and looking very sharp. Owner David Tepper also briefly addressed the crowd, and linebacker Luke Kuechly returned to practice in full pads.
PANTHERS PRACTICE OBSERVATIONS
- Newton’s most spectacular play came on a familiar combination that has been working since the first day of training camp. The quarterback threw a ball about 50 yards in the air to Curtis Samuel, who had broken wide open on a seam route.
Samuel hauled it in for what would have been a 70-yard TD, with both players then celebrating in the end zone and Newton then doing what looked like a hula dance.
- Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the play was good for Newton and Samuel but “a little disheartening on the defensive side. We busted a coverage and he [Newton] found a man right up the middle of the seam. It’s good to see him lay one out there.”
- Tre Boston got his old number 33 back for his first practice as a Panther. Running back Elijah Holyfield gave it up — not without a fight. (Just kidding about the fight — that’s a bad Evander Holyfield joke.) Elijah Holyfield is now wearing 21.
Boston had a fairly quiet night, although he made a couple of nice breaks on passes that would have resulted in big “collisions,” Rivera said.
- If you went to the stadium Friday night and had a feeling of déjà vu, no wonder — it has rained at some point during three of the past four Fan Fests. The most notable one came in 2016, when a fierce storm sped through Charlotte but then left a double rainbow in its wake, clearly visible above the stadium.
- Newton normally uses Fan Fest both as a time to get practice reps and as a time to also get some reps regarding his fan-centric exuberance. In between throws, he sometimes waved his arms frantically to get fans fired up, and he also ran like an airplane, led chants, started the wave going around the stadium and other standard but fun Newton stuff. After one rushing “touchdown” during a goal-line drill, Newton threw a ball 30 yards into the stands underhanded.
“He really enjoys the atmosphere,” Rivera said of his quarterback. “He feeds off their energy. So it’s really cool to see him have the kind of day he had — he had a good day.”
As for the football: Besides the 70-yard pass to Samuel, on back-to-back plays, Newton also hit DJ Moore for a 20-yard gain down the right sideline and then had what would have been a 25-yard gain dropped by Aldrick Robinson down the left sideline. Robinson would make up for that catch about an hour later with a 5-yard TD from Kyle Allen.
- It wasn’t just Newton dancing. At the end of practice, Samuel asked for a beat he could dance to during an interview and did about a 30-second solo to big applause.
- In his interview broadcast to the crowd, team owner David Tepper teased camera-shy general manager Marty Hurney. “Everybody wave to Marty,” Tepper said. “He loves the camera!”
- Tight end Greg Olsen drew a big cheer when he caught a couple of passes from Newton over the middle.
- Offensive guard Trai Turner and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy had veteran days off, and cornerback Kevon Seymour missed practice due to a tight hamstring.
- Although in full pads and participating in all individual drills, Kuechly skipped the team drills. Kuechly left practice Wednesday with an undisclosed injury after being caught up in a pileup. Said Rivera: “Luke is practicing. … There’s no issue with it. Just an abundance of being careful.”
Sunday, Aug. 4: 3:10 – 5:10 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 5: 9:25 – 11:30 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 6: 9:25 – 11:30 a.m.
Thursday, Aug. 8: Exhibition, at Chicago, 8 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 11: 3:10 – 5:10 p.m.
Monday, Aug. 12: 9:25 – 11:30 a.m.
Tuesday, Aug. 13: 9:25 – 11:30 a.m. Joint practice with Buffalo Bills
Wednesday, Aug. 14: 9:25 – 11:30 a.m. Joint practice with Bills
Friday, Aug. 16: Exhibition, Buffalo, 7 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 22: Exhibition, at New England, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Aug. 29: Exhibition, Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 31: Roster cutdown
Note: No practices scheduled for Aug. 3, 7, 9-10