David Tepper begins to build relationships


SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Head coach Ron Rivera's meeting with his team on the eve of Thursday's first practice of training camp set a tenacious tone when Rivera revealed one eye-popping statistic: Since 2013, the Panthers have a 37-2-1 record when winning the turnover margin.

But turnover wasn't limited to the field of play for the organization over the past seven-plus months, so Rivera yielded the floor for the majority of Wednesday's meeting to the embodiment of the seismic changes.

What was supposed to be a 15-minute gathering lasted three times that long, the first 30 minutes featuring new Panthers owner David Tepper fielding questions after briefly addressing his team.

"He was in yesterday, in with the guys for our first team meeting and spoke to the guys," Rivera said after the Panthers opened camp at Gibbs Stadium on Thursday evening. "It was really cool. It really was. I was really happy to see him get an opportunity to spend some time with our players, and then he came today and spent some time on the field and got a chance to meet some of our fans. It's a good thing."

Tepper stopped by a VIP party prior to Thursday's practice, then stood on the sideline for the session with family and friends. The previous night he seemed at ease in the team meeting, saying he was excited about the season and the talent level on the roster.

After Tepper finished answering players' questions, he took Rivera's seat and let the head coach prepare his team for the weeks of work ahead.

"The best family has a great culture," Rivera said. "In that culture, there's tremendous character. That's what this is for, guys – to develop that team."

Rivera showed the players and coaches a five-minute inspirational video showcasing the successes of the 2015 season that ended in bitter disappointment at the Super Bowl and featuring inspirational quotes and sound bites aimed at what it takes to successfully take that last step.

"Do it because you want to – do it because it's what you want, what you believe in," Rivera said. "If you do things because you want to, you're going to have more fun."