Rhule's transition from Baylor to NFL anything but normal

FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2020, file photo, Carolina Panthers NFL football team head coach Matt Rhule talks to the media during a news conference at the teams practice facility in Charlotte, N.C. The transition from being a head coach in college to the NFL is never easy. But it's even more difficult this year for Panthers coach Matt Rhule, who is trying to build a team and some sense of chemistry virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 8, 2020, file photo, Carolina Panthers NFL football team head coach Matt Rhule talks to the media during a news conference at the teams practice facility in Charlotte, N.C. The transition from being a head coach in college to the NFL is never easy. But it's even more difficult this year for Panthers coach Matt Rhule, who is trying to build a team and some sense of chemistry virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Mike McCarn, File) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Transitioning from head coach at the college level to the NFL is never easy.

But for Carolina Panthers first-year coach Matt Rhule, it has been particularly challenging given the coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly five months after being hired away from Baylor to resurrect a struggling franchise, Rhule has met in person only about 20 of the 90 players on his roster. The NFL essentially shut down in March due to the pandemic, so Rhule has yet to run his players through a single practice, watch them progress and build chemistry.

And the clock continues to tick.

It's growing increasing unlikely the NFL will allow on-field minicamps or organized team activities, meaning it's possible Rhule won't blow his first whistle at practice until late July when training camp begins. Carolina's rookies and first-year players are scheduled to report July 21, followed by veterans a week later.

"There's certainly no playbook for this,” Rhule said Wednesday on a video conference call. “It's not like you can call up the other NFL coaches and commiserate and say, ‘Hey, how are you guys handling this?’ You have to kind of figure it out on your own.”

Because Rhule hasn't been able to evaluate players on the field, it's made it difficult for him to have informed input on personnel decisions — and this during an offseason in which the Panthers parted ways with several high-profile players as part of a rebuild.

Earlier this offseason, for instance, the Panthers released longtime quarterback Cam Newton without Rhule ever watching him work out or practice.