Panthers head coach Ron Rivera can't wait to get to work with his new team, but he's glad his team decided that it wouldn't wait for an end to the NFL's current work stoppage before getting back to work.
"Our players organized a players-only workout, and I'm really proud of the fact that they showed leadership and stepped up," Rivera said of the eight practice sessions that wrapped up last week at Charlotte Christian School. "We had more of our guys working out than most teams in the league, so I'm very proud that our guys have taken that upon themselves and taken some ownership."
Behind the scenes, Rivera and his staff continue taking ownership of their new coaching responsibilities, getting the playbook finalized for the players' eventual arrival, among other things.
"The coaching staff will continue to do our work and get ready so that when we do have the green light, we're going to hit the ground running," Rivera said.
Rivera made his comments at a fan forum held during a recent visit to Fort Bragg. On the road trip, Rivera shared a couple of anecdotes from his playing days.
NO MADDEN JINX: In Rivera's youth, he and his family happened upon John Madden during an outing to Monterey Bay, Calif.
"He asked me what college I went to," Rivera said. "I was in high school."
It obviously wouldn't be the last time Madden and Rivera would cross paths.
"I told him, ‘Someday you'll see me in the NFL,'" Rivera said.
WITNESS TO HISTORY: After high school, Rivera played a part in two of the more iconic football moments of the 1980s.
As a junior linebacker with the California Bears in 1982, Rivera was on the sideline for what is simply called "The Play." Three years later, he was on the Chicago Bears roster during the filming of the famed "Super Bowl Shuffle."
On Nov. 20, 1982, California trailed Stanford (led by quarterback John Elway) 20-19 in the final seconds when the Bears returned a kickoff for the game-winning touchdown, a play that featured five laterals and ended with Kevin Moen - who initially fielded the kickoff - crashing into Stanford's trombone player in the end zone.
"As it was unfolding, you're sitting there thinking, ‘This is unbelievable. Did we win? Did we really win? Yeah, we did,' " Rivera said. "The place went nuts. The party and celebration went on all night and carried into the next day."
A much more somber scene - with similar amounts of sleep deprivation - preceded the taping of the "Super Bowl Shuffle" video on Dec. 3, 1985. The Chicago Bears, who lost just one game that season, shot the video just hours after returning from that one loss - a Monday night game at Miami that derailed a 12-0 start.
"We got back at like six o'clock in the morning, and it was downtown shortly after that. There was no way I was going to show up for that," Rivera said. "I wish I had been there. It went platinum."