It’s been an offseason of turmoil for Carolina Panthers management with workplace misconduct allegations against now former owner Jerry Richardson. New owner David Tepper has brought change, and there are indications more change is coming.
But despite the off field drama, fans are ready to focus on football. And the one thing that hasn’t changed is the annual Fan Fest practice, which brings the faithful back to Bank of America Stadium.
It’s become a tradition after the Fan Fest practice for quarterback Cam Newton to run up to the stands to lead the cheer. This year, he led variations of the wave that included fast, very fast, slow motion, backward, split-down the middle and stop-and-go.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera joked it wasn’t Newton’s best performance.
"It wasn’t as good as the one he did two years ago," Rivera said. "So he’s got a little bit of work to do on that."
But said he’s always glad to get back for this practice.
"It’s great to have the fans come out and respond to the energy level, it really brought a lot of energy to practice, and I think the guys really fed on that," Rivera said.
Owner David Tepper was on the sidelines for most of practice. He still has the shadow of Jerry Richardson to contend with. Richardson's statue will remain outside the stadium. But for the fans, it doesn't matter.
Loraine Clark has been a fan since the team was formed in 1995. She thinks the statue should stay.
"Leave it. If it wasn’t for him, this wouldn’t be here today," Clark said.
During Richardson’s ownership, the midfield logo was always the NFL shield — a symbol of Richardson's dedication to the league. But now, there’s nothing at midfield. The team showed a video of Newton that foreshadowed more expected change.
"I think it would be cool if the Panther head was in the middle of the field," Newton said. "And that’s just me, who am I?"