Originally created 04/03/02

Fox stresses work ethic on first day of practice



CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The head coach doesn't usually drag water buckets across the field. Either new Carolina coach John Fox doesn't know that or his pulling of the jugs was a sign of the work ethic he expects out of the Panthers.

Fox opened his first minicamp as head coach Tuesday with a strenuous workout and a stern lecture on ethics and attitudes. It was just what the worst team in the NFL last year needed. The Panthers went 1-15 last year, setting a record with 15-straight losses in a season.

"I think the first thing he said was 'We're going to come in here and we're going to meet, we're going to practice football and we're not going to waste any time. We're going to have lunch and we're going to come out here and practice again,' " said tight end Wesley Walls.

"That kind of attitude is refreshing. We're ready to put last year behind us, and believe me, after this practice, nobody is thinking about last year - they're thinking about how they're going to get through the next practice."

And Walls had it easy - offseason knee surgery limited him to light running while his teammates went through almost two hours of drills.

Fox, who replaced the fired George Seifert, has wasted no time in trying to turn the franchise around.

"I've always believed that people live up or down to your exceptions and I expect a lot and they ought to expect a lot of themselves," Fox said. "I truly believe that's the difference between winning and losing - selling them on the team concept and what they need to do to win. I think their attitude has been super so far."

That's because he's made it clear jobs are on the line.

The Panthers purged their roster during the offseason, dumping high-priced veterans like cornerbacks Doug Evans and Jimmy Hitchcock, linebacker Dean Wells and running backs Tshimanga Biakabutuka and Richard Huntley.

Fox, who has abandoned Seifert's West Coast offense in favor of a power running game, imported running back Lamar Smith, kick returner Michael Bates and veteran quarterback Rodney Peete, who will tutor Chris Weinke.

Weinke had no veteran guidance during his rookie season, when he opened the year as the starting quarterback.

"(Peete) is like a coach on the field," Fox said, "Some of your better teams, most of them have leadership like that."

Weinke, who had an NFC-worst 62.0 rating, is excited about Fox's vision.

The plan right now is to use Weinke heavily from the shotgun, where he excelled at Florida State. But Seifert refused to consider that option last season, even when it was clear Weinke was not suited for the short passes used in the West Coast offense.

"We'll try it out and if things seem to be better out of the shotgun, then we'll use it," Weinke said. "I felt comfortable doing it in college, it's a familiar spot for me, so we'll hopefully be successful trying it."