SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Perhaps the best way to find members of the Carolina Panthers’ secondary when they’re not on the practice field is to listen for the roar.
Seven of the 15 have Panther Blue Yamaha Raptor 450 ATVs.
“We’re like the modern day Rough Riders,’’ cornerback Teddy Williams said.
That would make Williams the Teddy Roosevelt of the group.
They don’t have San Juan Hill for him to lead a charge. But the off-road machines come in handy as players race up the paved hill that goes from the locker room at Wofford College, the Panthers' training camp home, to the cafeteria and living quarters.
Perhaps "race" wasn’t the best word here.
“The only thing I pay attention to is if they’re going too fast,’’ coach Ron Rivera said when asked about the ATVs. “I’m serious. I told them if I catch them I’ll take them away from them.’’
Anyone that doubts this should remember that during the 2015 Super Bowl run, Rivera banned the hoverboards players rode around Bank of America Stadium because he caught several racing them in the locker room.
He also was concerned after seeing a video of the boards igniting and catching fire.
“Hopefully, they’re staying within the speed limit and driving them the way they’re supposed to,’’ Rivera said.
So far, with the Spartanburg portion of camp set to break on Sunday, there have been no incidents. The defensive backs only use the machines to lessen the wear and tear on their legs between practices.
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Other players have different variations of ATVs, many of them Panther blue. Outside linebacker Thomas Davis has arguably the best, a four-seater that apparently has a killer stereo system.
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Defensive end Mario Addison has a 1000 Polaris he insists will go 230 mph.
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Defensive end Charles Johnson called Williams and company “copycats’’ with their blue 450s that the team website dubbed the “Blue Brigade.’’
“Just copycats,’’ Johnson said. “That four-wheeler out there won’t do nothing with the blue machine. I’m a country guy, so I know what I’m talking about.’’
Williams initially contacted Kevin Powell Motorsports based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, about renting one ATV for himself.
Powell came up with the idea of outfitting the entire secondary.
Well, as many as he could get on one of his transporters.
“The most they could fit on the tractor trailer was seven,’’ Williams explained. “So we got seven and just went oldest to youngest in our room.’’
It was more a matter of oldest to youngest that answered the phone. When somebody didn’t answer, Williams moved on.
“Some guys didn’t answer the phone and then they tried to text me,’’ he said. “I said, ‘It’s too late. You should have answered the phone.’
“So every guy outside the rookies, they have to do what they have to do and walk.’’
Or hitch a ride.
And even that has rules.
“When you see them walking around campus and see one of the guys, you have to do a weight diagnosis,’’ Williams said. “He’s about 210, he’s about 300. Nah! I’m going to have to pass him up.
“You see one of the little guys, you say, ‘Hey, you want a ride?'"
But the ATVs are a symbol for the unity of a secondary that has a chance to be a strength instead of a weakness, which it was much of last season.
As for Johnson saying the 450s couldn’t hang with some of the bigger ATVs, Williams scoffed.
“You know what?’’ he said. “They don’t want those problems. They won’t challenge us. They will just ride around, pat the pedal a little bit to see what they have under the hood.
“But they really don’t want those problems with us.’’