CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers first-year head coach John Fox's popularity increased Wednesday when he ended the team's three-week coaching sessions a day early.
Fox, who has quickly developed a reputation as a players' coach since joining the Panthers in January, rewarded his players or their hard work at the voluntary practices by canceling Thursday's final practice. The Panthers are now off until July 25, when they're scheduled to report to training camp in Spartanburg, S.C.
"In locker room lingo that's known as throwing the guys a bone," Fox said. "I think guys will give you about everything you have as long as you're fair to them.
"We had great participation at the coaching sessions and the guys have worked very, very hard this off-season - as hard as any team I've ever been associated with. So it was my way of saying thanks."
Fox's announcement, which came at a team meeting before Wednesday's practice, was met by a chorus of cheers from his players. The Panthers then went out on the practice field and had one of their most spirited workouts of the year.
"You give them a day off and all of sudden you're a hero," Fox said.
Panthers strong safety Mike Minter said the decision to let players leave a day early will be remembered.
"The seed that this plants in our head is this: If we come out and do what we're supposed to do, then coach will take care of us," Minter said. "When the boss man takes care of you and rewards you when you're working hard, I think that's good. I think that right attitude will carry over (in training camp)."
Fox took over for George Seifert, who was fired in January following a 1-15 season.
Fox knows there's still plenty of work to do, but said he won't hold last year's dismal season over the heads of this year's players.
"We all have to live with 1-15. Some of the people here were involved and some weren't. But what I keep reminding everyone is that this team is undefeated. We're 0-0 with this bunch of guys," Fox said. "We can't change a year ago. We can just learn a lesson for those people who were here and then move on.
Notes: Quarterback Chris Weinke threw lengthier passes Wednesday and Fox reiterated that Weinke should be full-go by training camp. However, the same can't be said for wide receiver Patrick Jeffers. The Panthers originally thought Jeffers would be close to 100 percent by training camp, but Fox expressed less optimism Wednesday. "That's more of a wait and see," Fox said. "He has had some knee problems and it's something that has been hampering to him. We've tried to get it fixed. That will be a wait and see."
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