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Volume 22 No. 28
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Closing shot: Welcome to the NFL

As David Tepper experiences his first NFL training camp as owner of the Carolina Panthers, we asked Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank to share what it’s like to walk onto the practice field for the first time in that role. His advice: Observe from a safe distance.
David Tepper was all smiles as he closed on his purchase of the Carolina Panthers earlier this month.
Photo: Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez / Carolina Panthers

Your first training camp as a new owner in the NFL can be rough. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank found that out the hard way in 2002.


“Well, at my first camp I walked into a place I shouldn’t have been and got steamrolled by a linebacker,” Blank said. “It wasn’t his fault, he was focused and giving everything to land a job and I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time and got flattened.


“Another practice, I was standing behind the offense with the head coach and a scuffle broke out between some linemen and running backs. They ended up on the ground right at my feet and I instinctively reached down to break it up like a parent would and ended up tearing my right rotator cuff in the process.”


Stay the hell out of the way and let someone bigger and stronger forge peace when needed.
Arthur Blank
Owner, Atlanta Falcons

So as David Tepper settles into his first training camp since taking over as Carolina Panthers owner, what advice would Blank provide?


“Stay the hell out of the way and let someone bigger and stronger forge peace when needed.”


Tepper has been evaluating staff in the front office, and training camp now brings his first chance to see what he has on the field. What might he be experiencing as a new owner?


“The media scrutiny and over-analysis of everything you say or do is immense, unlike anything I had experienced prior,” said Blank, who will get a good look at Tepper through the Falcons, an NFC South rival.


“The fans are smart and they know that owners don’t necessarily know the football side that well so it’s easy to get into trouble trying to be an expert, especially when it comes to personnel, game planning, etc. For me, it’s just better to leave that to the GM and head coach and to process my thoughts through with them before I say anything.”


Training camp is one thing, but what can Tepper expect as he sits in the owners box for the kickoff at his first regular-season game as owner?


“Of course my whole family was there as we started this great journey of stewardship for Atlanta’s football team,” Blank recalled. “The biggest thing I remember is just how emotional it was for all of us. A special memory for me as I’m sure it is for any new owner.”


All feelings likely to be felt by David Tepper as he begins his ownership journey.