Panthers training camp includes Target runs for players

Target is the real MVP of Carolina Panthers training camp so far. The department store served many players well as they arrived at Wofford College’s Jerome Johnson Richardson Hall on Tuesday, their home for the next few weeks.

Some, like rookie quarterback Matt Corral, didn’t know what to expect from the dorm rooms and traveled sparsely.

“I wasn’t aware of what we were getting supplied with. I came empty-handed, I had to do a Target trip,” he said. “I had to get a blanket and a pillow. It was just like a little sheet in the room with a little blanket and it was too cold in there, so I had to get another blanket.”

The first day of camp doesn’t feature any practices. Instead, that time is allotted for players to show up and check-in with the team. General manager Scott Fitterer said every player the team expected to show up did (Rashaan Melvin did not report with a personal matter).

Safety Jeremy Chinn said check-in day was like the best version of the first day of school after a long summer.

“I was always excited for the first day of school,” Chinn said. “Get to see all your classmates.”

Players pulled up to the curb outside the white-columned dorm, mostly in pickup trucks save for a few gaudy vehicles. They then unloaded almost everything they’d have for the next few weeks.

While some players like Corral traveled lightly, others came prepared for Wofford. Chinn, for example, brought scented candles.

“I really don’t know what scents, I just kind of smelled them yesterday in Target,” he said. “Make it a little bit more homey.”

Chinn’s setup paled in comparison to Christian McCaffrey’s room, one the running back admitted was likely the “bougiest” one on the team.

Half the room is dedicated to McCaffrey’s treatment equipment, he said, as the 26-year-old looks to stay healthy after two injury-plagued seasons. But the room’s also designed for comfort, leading him to bring a rug, candles and a lot of bedding.

“He’s got as many blankets as you could ever dream of,” teammate Sam Darnold said.

“I like to come back to my room and make it comfortable, so it looks like half of a treatment room and then half of a Four Seasons room,” McCaffrey joked.

Other players, such as D.J. Moore, chose to bring more sentimental objects with them to Wofford.

Moore and his daughter Ari own matching heart pillows, he said. The wide receiver left his pillow at home with his daughter but took hers with him to remind himself of her.

Brady Christensen epitomized the stereotypes of offensive lineman, choosing to bring just a pillow and a blanket as he drove down in a similarly simple car, a Toyota Tacoma he’s had for more than five years.

On the other hand, cornerback Jaycee Horn exited a matte black Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. The customized sports car had purple accents throughout, inside on the seats and on the side where the Hellcat logo, looking much like a Panther, bared its teeth.

“How fast have you gotten (in that car)? Without telling on yourself,” a reporter asked.

“I can’t tell you,” the second-year cornerback replied before opening the trunk and pulling out his bag.

Carolina is one of the few teams in the NFL that has their players make any kind of trip for training camp. Last year, linebacker Denzel Perryman got a speeding ticket during his drive down.

But the trip to Wofford serves a purpose, McCaffrey said, putting everyone on the team in the same place without any distractions.

“Coming here is great,” he said. “For me, going on Year 6, it’s kind of the start of football season.”

Varun Shankar is a junior at the University of Maryland who’s interning with The Charlotte Observer’s sports section for the summer. He’s a sports editor and reporter for Maryland’s student newspaper, The Diamondback, and a high school sports writer for The Washington Post.

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