The first battles were fought at Thursday night's initial practice.
Opening night in Spartanburg always features an adoring crowd. They screamed for every player who entered the field at the beginning and there was a roar for every successful throw and catch, especially by the players they know will be starring in the fall.
I'm always struck by how exhausting it must be to be Cam Newton. He bursts everywhere, clowning and smiling. Each positive rep by the offense, whether he was involved or not, is met with Cam bounding to the players involved for leaping celebration.
Torrey Smith first player in the field pic.twitter.com/HcjoaPoqbq— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) July 26, 2018
The man must have superhuman energy reserves because this isn't just the show when the fans are here, but in every practice to follow as well.
For longshots like former UNC stars Elijah Hood and Bug Howard, it's surely a less joyous and more stressful experience. Knowing the deck is stacked against you and knowing that every spare rep carries so much meaning where their careers here are concerned.
Life at the fringes of an NFL roster must be such a hardening experience. Nothing can be taken personally, even when everything probably seems personal.
My vote for most memorable sight of the night? Linebacker Thomas Davis running over to personally introduce himself to owner David Tepper's family, who were sharing the sideline next to the new boss. Thomas is no dummy.