Ron Rivera puts Panthers in full pads before weekend off

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The Panthers earned their weekend off by going 15-1.

But coach Ron Rivera wasn’t going to let his guys cruise through the entire week.

He put the Panthers through a rare fully padded practice Friday before giving them the weekend off before their preparations begin for their divisional round game.

“The padded practice today, the whole attitude was to get as many guys on the practice field as possible and get a chance to work and get the feel of being in pads again,” Rivera said, via Bryan Strickland of the team’s official website. “I wouldn’t want them to not be in full pads leading up to our first playoff game. I wanted them to get a good feel for it.

“I liked what we got out of it. It was competitive. Guys did a nice job with it. There were some decent collisions but nothing out of control, which was a big emphasis before we started.”

There’s always a degree of breath-holding involved in contact, but Rivera’s also the same guy who didn’t want to know the score of Arizona’s game last week because he wanted his team to get back to its winning vibe as much as he wanted them to secure home-field advantage. And his method is something his players have responded to.

“We had a great practice today,” quarterback Cam Newton said. “One thing about this team, there are unbelievable guys that love to respond. What I mean by that is controlling the ‘it,’ not making the ‘it’ control you. The ‘it’ today was going on a mini-vacation, having a couple of days off, and it’s drizzling and cold, and your body may not be in the same routine to get ready to go.

“But we showed the professionalism and maturity of a good team.”

Now, they get to wait to see which good team they’re preparing for, as they’ll get the lowest remaining seed next Sunday (either Seattle or the Washington-Green Bay winner).