On what difference this offseason made: What really stands out is the group that had been put back together when we came back to work in the offseason workouts. We just grew extremely close over the course of that time and it carried over into OTAs and minicamp and training camp. Everything just came together for us. Sitting down and reflecting on all of that, it just makes you cherish this time.
On the seamless transition upon arriving to the training facility in San Jose: Our normalcy is us being together wherever we go. We feel comfortable wherever we go because we're going together. That's the type of group that we have. We just have brought our show on the road here. Being in there, the environment feels similar. The guys set up their Bose speakers and were playing those. Everything felt normal for us. It was a good first day of work for us.
On how wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin going down with an injury affected his mindset: Well it affected me personally because of my attachment to him with my being here his rookie year. He's basically a little brother to me. Just being able to have some type of role in helping him develop as a man and as a football player, I didn't take that lightly. To see him go down in training camp was tough. It was tough to see. I know how much work he had put into it. I saw the growth that was taking place and he was really tearing it up at that point in time in training camp. To see him go down was really tough. I just let the process do what it does. I just really sat there and felt bad for him and just tried to encourage him at that point in time and go on from there. I didn't try to rush through that process and move back on to football. I just tried to be supportive of him in that moment.
On if he saw Benjamin's injury as an opportunity to step up: I just saw it as another opportunity for guys that are going to be put in different spots. I knew the coaching staff was going to do a great job of putting guys in different positions to highlight their skill sets and allow them to be successful. I just wanted to make sure the guys had a consistent approach to all that we were doing. Just basically reinforcing what (Wide Receivers) Coach (Ricky) Proehl talks about every day and just tried to be that as the elder statesmen of the group.
On what it says about this wide receiving corps that they were able to overcome the doubters: We take a, "Get better each and every day" approach to what we're doing. So, we hear things that are being said, but we really don't take them to heart because we just try to focus on getting better individually and collectively and making sure that we'd be at our best on Sunday.
On if he ever doubted he would make it to the Super Bowl after several near misses: Well, I won't say I doubted it, but I just know how extremely hard it is to be in this position. As you get closer to the end of it, you just dream of moments like this to be able to contend. Being in Pittsburgh was an unbelievable experience for me. Coming in here and continuing to contend has been awesome. To be at this point in time and to be on this stage at this point in time of my career is definitely a blessing.
On if this team is an anomaly in being allowed to continue to grow with the same coaches and core group of players: Yeah, this league is generally so impatient with allowing things to play out. It stunts growth of players. It stunts growth of even talented coaches. The organizations that demonstrate that patience are often rewarded for it. This is no different. In our case, we have an extremely talented head coach - a guy who gets players and is a brilliant football mind. I think the organization is being rewarded for that patience with him.
On how nice it was to get media day behind him and get into the rhythm of a week of practice: Well, we're prepared for all of the things that come with making it to the Super Bowl. (Head) Coach (Ron) Rivera does a great job with all of that. We'll take care of our business with the media and doing all of these things, but we know how to get back to work. This is a part of this deal. It's not a distraction for us at all. We know what this brings, so we know how to take care of our business accordingly.
On what he took away from his time spent on the Pittsburgh Steelers: The only way I can describe it was a breath of fresh air. It was truly a rewarding time period for myself, for my wife, my family, just being in the city of Pittsburgh. It was just a wonderful experience for us in general. To be able to play for that organization at that point in time of my career was very, very rewarding. That time period I will forever look back on and cherish that because I learned so much about football and what this game is really about. It reinforced a lot of things that I was taught as a young player when I first laced up the cleats. It was definitely a rewarding time, but definitely refreshing.
On how they balance the line between acting too loose and too tight: First of all, we have a great head coach that knows how to keep us focused. Each day we go out to practice, each work day, he keeps us incredibly focused for the job at hand. Guys know how to take care of their business. We're professionals. We have to deal with everything accordingly. First and foremost, we have to take care of our business. We all have different personalities. Coach does a great job of allowing guys to show their personalities, but remain focused on the task at hand.
On his reaction to hearing Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson retired: It didn't surprise me. This game requires a lot when it comes to preparation, whether it be physically or mentally. Anytime a guy just retires out of nowhere, it doesn't surprise me at all because of what this game requires in order for a guy to be at his best on Sunday. Obviously, the work that you put into it, you want to see results from it. You want to go to the playoffs. You want to play in these types of games right here. So, when you're not able to do that, it takes a toll on you. Obviously, he's a wonderful player. Every time I've played against him, he's just an extremely down to earth guy. The game will miss him if he goes through with it.
On how to age well playing the wide receiver position: You have to take care of your body first and foremost. (New York Jets RB) Curtis Martin mentioned it my rookie year that the best investment you can make as a football player is to invest in yourself. Whether that's taking care of your body and preparing the right way to be at your best on Sunday, that's the best investment you can make. As a receiver, you definitely have to put in the type of work necessary to keep yourself on top of your game and making sure you're able to go out and perform each and every year.
On players on the Panthers having played for several different teams before and how they've had so much success acclimating to the Panthers culture: I think the organization, Coach Rivera, the coaching staff, they do a great job of identifying guys that fit into what the culture is. Obviously, they've brought in guys that are familiar with the schemes and things of that nature. I think it's worked well for guys. Once you understand the type of player you're getting, understanding the type of man you're getting, that says a lot about the organization and it helps that person flourish in that atmosphere. (Safety) Kurt Colemen is one of those guys that is familiar with (Defensive Coordinator Mike) McDermott and I was familiar with the offensive system. I played in it in New York. I think for me, when I came here, they understood what type of guy I was and they just wanted to make sure that everything that was being said about me was true. I appreciated that and that made me a lot more comfortable.
On what he took from former NFL player Eugene Robinson's talk with the team: I don't want to get into specifics about what he said, but I think the message is clear of what we've preached all year long about being selfless and not putting yourself before the team. In moments like this, you have to make sure that holds true and not do anything to hurt this team. So, make sure you take care of your business when you're out there and not get distracted from the task at hand.
On quarterback Cam Newton's dancing: His teammates love it. I've been on enough teams where if guys made it completely about themselves and they're constantly dancing and the guys didn't like it, they would let him know. In football, you have to have thick skin in locker rooms and guys would let you know when they don't like what you're doing. If you're on that team, they will let you know. But, obviously Cam is a guy that we all love in the locker room. We enjoy having him around. Guys enjoy being around him. We have plenty of guys on the team that are just like him that love dancing. (Safety) Tre Boston is probably the second most dancing dude on the team. He can't dance as well as Cam or Mike Tolbert, but he's going to dance any chance he gets. We have a lot of guys with that type of personality and we love everything about him.
View photos of the Panthers during their media session at the San Jose Convention Center.