New Panthers coach Matt Rhule won’t have the benefit of a normal offseason in his first as an NFL head coach.
But based on the way one of his former and current players talk about his approach to practice, he won’t lack for energy.
Via Jourdan Rodrigue of TheAthletic.com, new Panthers linebacker Tahir Whitehead described Rhule’s enthusiasm as contagious.
“I can’t harp on it enough, he’s a players’ coach,” Whitehead said. “He loves to have fun, he loves to keep guys engaged and he’s innovative in the way he keeps guys engaged.”
One day, that included suiting up. Rhule was the offensive coordinator at Temple when Whitehead played there, and surprised players by showing up wearing pads.
“I can recall one practice, we were about to get ready for warm-ups. And out of nowhere, he comes out with a helmet and shoulder pads on,” Whitehead said. “I remember looking at him like, ‘Dang, this guy is crazy!’ I forget which player he was going up against but I would say he was about twice Matt’s size! And Matt didn’t care. He was like ‘look, come on. We gotta show you guys how to get going . . . We’re going to push the issue.’
“He went out there and just started hitting guys! Got in the middle of the circle, bull-in-the-ring style, and just started going around and butting everybody up. I was like, ‘OK. This is the type of guy you want on your team.’”
Now that he’s 45, it’s doubtful Rhule’s going to square up with any of his players whenever the Panthers convene for any degree of offseason. But that kind of approach is going to be necessary as he enters his rookie year — at a time in which rebuilding a roster isn’t even the main concern.