Ron Rivera doesn’t want his 15-1 Panthers to relax too much during their bye week.
According to Panthers.com, the Panthers head coach put his team through a padded practice, which is rare for this late in the season.
The Panthers had their regular-season bye in Week 5, so they’ve played for 12 straight weeks and it seems they could use the time off that they earned as the top seed in the NFC. It also can be argued that the Panthers could use a jolt after surviving a scare against the Giants in Week 15, losing at Atlanta in Week 16 and proving little in a 38-10 Week 17 home win over the Buccaneers that nonetheless secured home-field advantage.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 8, 2016
Carolina has the talent to raise the Lombardi Trophy, but history has shown that the first-round bye can come with some hazards. A 15-1 record isn’t an automatic ticket to the conference championship game. The 15-1 Packers fell to the Giants in a 2011 NFC divisional playoff game. The year before, the 14-2 Patriots were upset by the Jets 28-21 in an AFC divisional playoff game.
Rivera broke out the pads Friday to keep his team sharp.