Time is not an issue for Panthers head coach Matt Rhule. He's going on more walks than he ever has in his life, is eating dinner with his wife and three kids, watching tape on a variety of players and growing out his beard.
Similar to the impacts felt by everyone around the country, the measures put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have put restrictions and a unique twist on Rhule's first season with the Panthers. The offseason training program was scheduled to start this week for the five teams with new head coaches, however, that is on pause as the NFL and NFLPA search for a virtual solution.
In his first conversation with local media since the release of quarterback Cam Newton and the start of free agency, Rhule touched base Wednesday on a variety of topics, including taking the time to thank those on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic and to say he's thinking of those in his hometown of New York. He's helping home school his children, who are taking online classes from three different schools, while learning his team and the draft prospects at a time when he was supposed to be seeing them practice in person.
"It's not fun, because I'm a coach, because I like coaching players, I'll coach till I'm 90 (years old), I'll be coaching junior high football. I like coaching players, getting to know players," Rhule said. " ... That being said, I think you know when you see what's happening around the country, it kind of puts into perspective like, 'Hey, Matt, stop, don't feel sorry for yourself.' I miss it, I would like to be around the guys, but at the end of the day, I want them to do what's right for, not just them, but for them and their families."
WHAT AREAS ARE THE PANTHERS LOOKING AT ADDRESSING IN THE NFL DRAFT?
General manager Marty Hurney spoke to the media earlier this week and said that the team would be looking to address defense in the draft with more of their focus in free agency on offense.
While Rhule said that the defensive depth would be a priority in the draft, specifically at corner, defensive line and linebacker, he also pointed out that addressing the safety position in free agency was something that was important to them.
Browns safety Juston Burris was someone they had their eye on from the beginning and emphasized his ability to play nickel, cornerback and safety. Burris had experience with Panthers run coordinator Al Holcomb in Cleveland last year. The Panthers "knew they needed stability" at safety, hence the re-signing of veteran Tre Boston.
Although safety is the only defensive position the team directly addressed in free agency, Rhule said that doesn't mean they won't bring in an offensive player in the draft, noting the deep wide receiver class.
"That doesn't mean though, in my mind at least, that we won't draft a guy on offense. There's a thought of, hey, you should throw your fastball. If we're really good on offense, we want to continue to look (there)," Rhule said. "I think our mind-set in free agency was, we didn't want to go overspend on any one player or any two players. We wanted to make sure that we put a lot of depth at a lot of positions."