Carolina Panthers coaches, players disappointed by lack of effort in preseason opener

The Carolina Panthers first preseason game of the 2012 season was not pretty. The offense bogged down, the special teams did not help much and the team played with little emotion. Yes, it was the first game, and despite the lack of game-planning by the Panthers, if they are truly committed to being a contender this season, things have to change…and quickly.

Carolina Panthers’ safety Haruki Nakamura (43) assists on a tackle Saturday night against Houston. Photo courtesy Gerry Broome – AP

“Even though it’s preseason, you use the preseason to make a point around the league. Whether it’s your backups (or) your starters, you’re here to prove a point,” free safety Haruki Nakamura said. “That’s to let everyone know we’re going to be a physical football team. We’re going to be a sound football team, a disciplined football team.

“One thing that coach Rivera says (is) when one of our team leaders puts a big statement out there like Ryno did, it’s our job to back him up,” Nakamura added. “It’s not a coach’s job. It’s not the owner’s job. It’s our job as a team and as players to step up and prove that we’re behind him

Nakamura knows something about urgency. As a member of the Baltimore Ravens for the past four seasons, he backed up All-Pro Ed Reed, and Nakamura knows he has a great opportunity this season with the Panthers. He also knows what it takes to get to the postseason, having experienced it with the Ravens.

The Panthers are down to their final three days left in Spartanburg before breaking camp on Wednesday. Add to that a short week – their second exhibition game is set for Friday evening against the Miami Dolphins in Charlotte – and the team has a lot to do.”We definitely were really a vanilla version of our offense out there. I mean, we’ve got a massive playbook and we only ran a little bit of it,” left tackle Jordan Gross said. “With that being said, you need to win no matter what we’re running.”

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera watching the action Saturday night in Charlotte. Photo courtesy Bob Leverone – AP

Panthers coach Ron Rivera was not pleased.”I was truly disappointed, to be very honest with you. I expected some other guys to step up and make some plays and some guys didn’t. That is disappointing,” he said. “When you have an opportunity to play this football game, you have to play it with a sense of urgency and we didn’t do that, especially in the second half. To me that was very disappointing and I will work to get that corrected because it falls on me.”

While Cam Newton (2-6-0, 17 yards) led the team to a field goal in his 13 plays, backup Derek Anderson (7-12-1, 99) worked a lot. And third-team quarterback Jimmy Clausen (3-6-0, 24)was sacked five times and fumbled once…not the kind of beginning you want to have.

“I do not accept that as football and I am disappointed in those men that are on our football team,” Rivera said.

“Last year we played them in the regular season and had a good showing in their home stadium. It’s unacceptable for them to come in here and us not really perform the way we want to in our own stadium,” running back Jonathan Stewart said. “That’s the mindset of this year. And I think he wants to get his point across off the bat – that’s not acceptable.”

Houston had 20 first downs and 375 net yards against just 12 and 137 for the Panthers. And the Texans had a huge 37:41 to 22:19 advantage in time of possession.

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