CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Earning a win in the National Football League is difficult enough, but getting an NFL team ready for gameday? More work than you'd ever imagine.
"It's a lot of work," Carolina Panthers Equipment Manager, Don Toner said. "Constantly looking forward each week too."
The Carolina Panthers named Toner as the team's second equipment manager in franchise history back in July. Toner earned the promotion after Jackie Miles, who served as the equipment manager from the team’s inception through the 2017 season. Miles is now the equipment manager for the New York Giants.
"Jack was great," Toner said. "He really taught you to be prepared for anything that hit you. There have been a bunch of times we had been on the road when the weather changed or different circumstances, and we were always prepared. Always."
And that type of preparation is key to Toner and the team's ultimate success.
It's a lot of work," Toner said. "We came back from Washington, we unpacked Sunday night, and first thing Monday morning we were right back to packing for Philadelphia.
But the job is much more than loading a truck full of gear. In fact, much of the planning is dictated by the venue and the expected weather each Sunday.
"We have a big challenge because of the weather in Philadelphia," Toner said. "Even though its mid-October, the temperatures are going to be in the 40's, with feel-like temperatures in the 30's."
In this business, not a single item can be forgotten, so this crew doesn't pack lightly. The 18-wheeler used to transport a majority of the team's gear weighs upwards of 10,000 pounds, along with an additional 5,000 pounds on the team airplane.
"If it's an outdoor game, we pack more gear that we don't plan on using," Toner said. "It was supposed to be 60 degrees in Washington, no rain, and sure enough it rained in pre-game, so we were prepared. We had the rain gear ready for the guys and their thermals. Nobody panicked, and it was easy."
But once the team both on and off the field succeed on Sunday, it's right back to step one yet again.
"Keeping in mind next week what jersey's we are wearing, colors we are wearing, and even in a couple weeks when we start to wear Salute to Service," Toner said. "Not to mention the cold weather games coming in Cleveland and Pittsburgh and being prepared for those as well."
Although packing and unloading the gear comes first and foremost, the job is much more rewarding than that. This crew also feels the weight of wins and loses just like the Panther players and coaches
They're players and everyone idolizes these players, but to us, they're our friends," Toner said. "We're out there working with them. Everybody is in it together right from the start of training camp to the end of the season.
The entire Panthers crew, whether they are competing or helping those men become gameday ready all have the same mission; succeed.
"It's so satisfying, especially when you win on the road," Toner said. "You're in the locker room, and basically there's 110 of you with all the operations and the players, and you just beat another team in front of their home fans. You just get that togetherness feeling."
A feeling that proves the team's success could be not accomplished without the other half.