Panthers report to fan-less training camp amid COVID-19 pandemic

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tuesday was a big day for the Carolina Panthers and their fans -- veterans reported to training camp -- but this year, with so much concern about COVID-19, things are going to look a lot different.

For the first time in franchise history, the Panthers will not train in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Instead, they reported to camp at Bank of America Stadium Tuesday morning -- with no fans present -- while following a series of safety protocols.

Players will be tested for COVID on the first, second and fourth day of camp. They have to test negative two times, 72 hours apart before they are even allowed inside the stadium or the nearby practice facility.

To help with contract tracing, players will wear proximity devices during team activities.

The Panthers have 90 players right now, but they will eventually whittle that down to 53.

Unfortunately, all preseason games are canceled. The Panthers home opener is Sept. 13 against the Las Vegas Raiders.

Officials said they anticipate COVID-19 testing will continue all season for the players.

As veteran players across the league report for training camp, there is a growing number of them choosing to opt-out of the 2020 season -- either for their own health concerns or concern of the health and well-being of their family members.

The New England Patriots already have half dozen players who will be opting out this season.

Here's a look at the Panthers schedule the next six days:

COVID-19 testing for three of the first four days, which also includes players attending virtual COVID-19 training and education. If players test negative three times, they can then enter the team facilities on Saturday and Sunday.

In addition to regular physicals, players will also be given tracking devices that will monitor who they come into contact with during practices and will help with contact tracing.

They’ll also learn the new COVID-19 rules about when and how they can use locker rooms, dining rooms and other areas.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell posted a letter to fans, thanking them for their continued support and saying safety is their number one priority. He said each team is using state and local health guidelines to determine whether fans will attend the games.

Doctors for the NFL and players union have repeatedly said to expect protocols to change throughout the season as they learn more about the virus, how it’s spread and as testing develops further.

Channel 9 has reported the Carolina Panthers sent a letter to season ticket holders asking fans if they wanted a socially distanced season or they could opt-out and choose not to go to any games.

Once they determine how many people want to attend games and how many fans will be allowed in the stadium, they will figure out how many tickets they can distribute.

The team said it is unlikely people will be sitting in their usual seats.