CHARLOTTE — The preseason is over, and the Panthers could scarcely be more thankful.
Redemption for last January’s divisional-round loss to Arizona wasn’t going to be accomplished with a few August series of work by the Panthers’ core contributors — a group that was absent Jon Beason, Charles Godfrey, Steve Smith, Thomas Davis, Muhsin Muhammad and Jonathan Stewart for various stretches of the warmup slate. No, the attempt at atonement was going to come in September and beyond.
“The main thing is going to Week 1 against Philly. Honestly, I could care less if we won a preseason game,” said fullback Brad Hoover. “Granted, you want to go out there and have a good showing, but our goal is to come in and be ready for Week 1.”
“I’d rather go 0-4 in the preseason than the regular season,” said center Ryan Kalil. “I think guys are eager to get out here and do well.”
And what better test than a team in the same mindset as themselves, another club looking to build off a frustrating postseason loss to the Cardinals? The Eagles and Panthers represent measuring sticks for each other’s progress — and their ability to overcome season-ending injuries on defense, with the Panthers minus Maake Kemoeatu and the Eagles doing without middle linebacker Stewart Bradley.
Both teams have had a month to adapt to life without those starters. They’re ready.
“I really like our game plan going into this week,” said running back DeAngelo Williams. “We’ve had some great days of practice, and we’ve been focused out there. This isn’t the preseason.”