The Carolina Panthers are in a growing minority and you can blame part of that on old-school owner Jerry Richardson.
The only current owner to play in the NFL, Richardson is the main reason why the Panthers are one of just 12 teams that will hold training camp away from their regular-season facilities in 2013. Part of the reason for that may stem from the fact that Richardson, who played for the Baltimore Colts, played in an era where the norm was to train away from home.
But there’s more to it than that. It’s easy to say the Panthers train at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C., simply because that’s Richardson’s alma mater. That certainly is a factor, but having a presence in South Carolina is something Richardson felt strongly about when he first got the expansion team.
Richardson didn’t name the team the Charlotte Panthers because he wanted to engage a fan base in both North and South Carolina.
It works for the Panthers because Spartanburg is a little more than an hour drive from Charlotte and the facilities at Wofford are outstanding. Coach Ron Rivera, who spent some time in the “Cheese League’’ when he was playing for the Chicago Bears, has said he likes training away from home because it helps with team bonding. Predecessor John Fox felt the same way.
The other three NFC South teams have followed the league-wide trend of moving camp back to their regular-season facilities in recent years. The New Orleans Saints left Jackson, Miss., the Atlanta Falcons left Furman University and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers left Disney.
All those moves were logical because the Saints, Falcons and Buccaneers have plush facilities at home.
But, as long as Richardson owns the Panthers, I don’t see the team following the league-wide trend and holding camp at home.