CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - The 2020 Carolina Panthers' season begins Sunday, and lots of things will look different.
Quarterback Cam Newton is playing for New England.
Linebacker Luke Kuechly has retired.
Former Panthers coach Ron Rivera, fighting cancer, is in Washington.
A national pandemic has forced change, too. There will be no fans in the stands for Sunday’s 1 p.m. season opener against the Las Vegas Raiders. That could mean more fans will watch on TV (WBTV, Channel 3) or listen on the radio (WBT, 1110 AM).
Here’s a quick primer for watching Sunday’s game at home.
▪ The Panthers will host a live pregame show before every home game on its social media networks at 11:30 a.m. The team says it will have live views of the field during warmups and analysis.
▪ Bojangles' will host a drive-through tailgate Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon at its 3rd Street location near uptown. Sir Purr will be on site with live music, gift cards, balloons and plenty of fried chicken.
▪ A Panthers tradition is the Keep Pounding Drummer, the guest who pounds the drum before games. West Craven principal Tabari Wallace will handle duties Sunday. The 2018-19 N.C. principal of the year was a walk-on defensive back at East Carolina.
▪ Who’s going to win? Experts from Bleacher Report, ESPN, NFL.com, SB Nation, Sport Illustrated, Sporting News and USA Today pick the Raiders. CBS Sports picks the Panthers.
▪ Raiders coach Jon Gruden told the San Jose Mercury News that the team has plans to acknowledge the need for social justice and equality before the game, but wouldn’t release the details. In Thursday’s season-opening game, the Chiefs and Texas locked arms for a moment of silence. The Chiefs stood on the field as R&B singer Alicia Keys performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song known as the black national anthem. They remained standing for the national anthem. The Texans remained in the locker room.
“I think we’re all together on what we’re going to do,” Gruden said. “Our players have discussed it, and I’ll leave it at that.”
The Panthers planned to have a team meeting Friday to discuss their plans.
▪ Texans safety Michael Thomas made T-shirts you may see in pregame warmups. The shirts were sent by the NFL Players Association to every player league-wide. On the front, the black shirts say, “Injustice against one of us is injustice against all of us.” The back says: “End racism.”
▪ There were some boos from fans in Arrowhead Stadium during the moment of silence for equality in the Chiefs-Texans game, and NBC analyst and Super Bowl coach Tony Dungy said he thinks any efforts this season will be met with a mixed reaction.
"You’re going to see some people who say, ‘If these players kneel, I’m not going to watch anymore because I feel very strongly that they shouldn’t,’ " Dungy said. “And then you’re going to see people like my young kids, who say, ‘Oh, I think that’s great and that they have a voice, and I’m going to be more apt to watch.’ Which way it’s going to go and who’s going to attract more or lose more, I’m not really sure, but I think just like everything in this country, you’re going to see both sides of that.”
▪ Greg Gumbel will call the Raiders-Panthers game, with Rich Gannon as the color analyst. Jay Feely will be the reporter.
▪ Over on Fox (WJZY, Channel 46), Green Bay-Minnesota will air at 1 p.m. and Tampa Bay-New Orleans at 4:15 p.m. The late game on NBC (WCNC, Channel 36) is Dallas at the Los Angeles Rams at 8:30.
▪ With no fans, the Panthers can play artificial crowd noise up to 70 decibels. IAC Acoustics, which manufactures sound-deadening products, says 70 decibels is as loud as a vacuum cleaner or about 20 decibels lower than the average NFL game. Panthers coach Matt Rhule said his team might push its huddle a little further back than usual to prevent the Raiders from hearing the pre-play conversation.
▪ About that artificial fan noise: The New York Times reports that TV viewers will hear live sounds from the stadium but also crowd noise recorded by NFL Films over the past four years. This sound, which is unique to each home field, will be used during the broadcasts. According to the Times, NFL Films grouped sounds into different volumes and categories, so engineers can cue up boos, cheers and team chants.