CHARLOTTE – Gerald McCoy is looking forward to the chance to face his former team twice after the longtime Buccaneers defensive lineman signed Tuesday with the Panthers, but he believes too much is being made of that.
Belief did play a significant role, however, in his decision to come to Carolina – the belief he has in the Panthers and the belief they showed in him.
"The reason I'm here is because I was quoted as saying I want to go to a contender. Every ounce of me feels like this team is a true contender," McCoy said Tuesday at his introductory press conference. "The NFC South champs are the New Orleans Saints, and they're known to have a great offense. In order to take them out, you've got to have a great defense. The Carolina Panthers have been known to have a great defense, and I just want to add to that.
"I truly believe with the addition of me and all the pieces that are already here, we've got a great shot."
McCoy, age 31, believes he still has plenty to offer a contender, but it was good to hear that from a suitor after the Buccaneers released him May 20.
"I would like to thank the Panthers organization – Mr. Tepper, Mr. Hurney and of course Coach Rivera – for believing in me," McCoy said. "It feels great, especially at my age, to still have a lot of belief. I'm extremely excited to get it going. I can't wait."
Here are more highlights from McCoy's first exchange with media members who cover the Panthers.
On how breakfast with Ron Rivera and lunch with a group of players during his visit Friday impacted his decision: "I got to have breakfast with Coach Rivera, and he just seemed so genuine – like somebody that wouldn't lie to you. And he just kept it real, didn't try to sell the organization or who he was. It just sold itself.
"Then I had an opportunity to go to lunch with some of the players, and we just had an instant chemistry. … I'm a vegan and we went to a vegan restaurant. The two biggest dudes at the table – KK (Short) and Trai (Turner) – were like, 'Man, what is up with this vegan?' But they were there. That means a lot that they were like, 'You know what, man? We've got to get this dude.' We had a great time, great fellowship, and I left lunch feeling like I could fit right in here."
On his impressions of the organization having faced the Panthers twice a year since 2010: "It's a Grade A organization. … This organization is known for its ability to be resilient and to find a way to win. Even if tough times, they have a history of finding a way to push through and fight through. I just wanted to be a part of that."
On whether Cam Newton played a role in his decision: "We talked a few times. I'll leave that private, but we talked. I'm here, so he's a pretty good recruiter.
"I've been quoted as saying Cam is the best escape artist we have in this league, so now I can watch him do it other people. Cam is not a small human, and he's not easy to get down, so I'm going to smile on the sideline as other people try to do it because I know it's not easy."
On how being introduced as a Man of the Year candidate at the Super Bowl impacted his decision to, like Newton, become a vegan this offseason: "They've got us standing in the middle of the field while the teams are getting introduced, and I said to myself, 'You know what? You need to do everything in your power to be able to feel that feeling. And knowing that I was getting up in age and my joints were starting to hurt and stuff, I had a lot of friends who were trying to push me to be vegan. One in particular is (former Titans linebacker) Derrick Morgan, and I just hit him up and I was like, 'You know what? What the heck. I'm going to try it.' It's worked for me, and I feel great."
On something else he has in common with Newton: "He isn't afraid to be himself, and he doesn't care how you feel about it. That's me. I'm going to be me. I'm going to have a great time the same way he does. I think we're going to mesh well."
View photos of the newly signed defensive lineman as he officially becomes a Carolina Panther.