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Panthers ramp up intensity on first practice day with interim HC Steve Wilks

CHARLOTTE — A lot has happened in the last 48 hours for the Carolina Panthers, between the firing of Matt Rhule to Steve Wilks taking the reins as interim head coach, but Wednesday’s practice felt like a return to what matters: executing plays on the gridiron.

Wilks told Channel 9 he actually switched it up a bit for Wednesday’s practice, with players going into full pads a day earlier than usual.

Wilks said the early move to full pads was aimed at ramping up the intensity. That might have something to do with Panthers owner David Tepper acknowledging that the intensity fell during Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers. The Panthers lost that game, and Rhule was let go the next day.

Channel 9 got to hear from Tepper and Wilks earlier this week, but Wednesday offered a look into the players’ perspectives on the news of Rhule’s firing.

“It’s still tough, but it’s a business,” said Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson. “They picked the right guy to go be the interim head coach. He’s been here before, he’s from the city.”

The Charlotte local is taking over for a team that currently sits last in the NFC South, but there’s a renewed sense of optimism in the locker room even after this week’s news.

“I think the one thing Coach Rhule did, he created a close locker room. We’re all very close with each other, and to have Coach Wilks to come in here, the respect that he has is incredible,” said Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey.

Channel 9 also got an injury update for quarterback Baker Mayfield after he was spotted in a boot following the 49ers game. He’s still day to day with a chance that he could play, but PJ Walker got the reps as the starter on Wednesday.

The Panthers head to Los Angeles to play the Rams this Sunday. The Rams

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