Rivera to shorten Panthers’ offseason program

AP

As a team that got to the Super Bowl this year tries to get back next year, one of the biggest impediments to playing into February comes from the fact that the team has just played into February.

The fatigue can take a toll on a team, and Panthers coach Ron Rivera already is thinking about how to manage the extra effort expended in 2015 as 2016 approaches. Specifically, he’ll be delaying the start of the offseason program in order to ensure that his players get more rest.

“We’ve checked with the league and we’re gonna be able to do some things a little bit differently as far as when we can start,” Rivera told reporters on Tuesday. “We checked with the league, the league checked with the Players Association. Because of finishing as late as we did, we’re going to start a little later. I am going to eliminate a little bit of the time, as far as what the OTAs and the offseason program brings.

“The whole idea is that we’ve had five extra weeks of work, our young guys have gotten five more weeks that they normally wouldn’t have gotten, or may not have gotten. So that I think is important. And, again, the idea right now in talking with the trainers, the docters, the strength and conditioning staff, it’s about rest right now. . . . It does complicate things, but it’s a great problem to have.”

The players, Rivera explained, will have the same amount of time off as they had last year. But the program will still end at the same time as it did last year.

It’s a plan that goes against the approach employed by most NFL coaches, who will take full advantage of every rep and every practice and every opportunity — especially under a CBA that limits contact and practice time.

Coaches want more, not less. Rivera’s decision to choose less could start a new trend, if it ensures that the players have more gas in the tank as the team gets to December and, more importantly, January and, even more importantly, February.