CHARLOTTE--The Carolina Panthers and their fans have been waiting for this particular Saturday since the first day of the year. Their regular season ended with a loss to the New Orleans Saints, but so many positive things happened in the 2011 season that optimism is as high with this team than perhaps any other time in franchise history, since their inaugural year.
A week before Saturday's game, the Panthers were within the Bank of America Stadium walls at the annual Fan Fest. Fans got their first up-close look at a team that many feel could challenge for a playoff spot.
The team itself has set the bar higher this season, thanks to a pre-training camp newspaper ad from center Ryan Kalil. It is something that filtered into the Panther players and has been a driving force throughout training camp.