CHARLOTTE – As a player in this league since 2004, safety Mike Adams has lived through Mondays after games that have been even more eventful than the one he and his defensive teammates experienced this Monday.
“I’ve just seen it all. I’ve seen Peyton Manning get cut, Champ Bailey get cut, so nothing surprises me anymore,” Adams said. “That’s the business side of it. Guys get cut every day, in and out of locker rooms. It happens.
“But you know what? We’ve still got a game to prepare for.”
Adams didn’t mean to dismiss what happened Monday, when head coach Ron Rivera shuffled his defensive staff one day after the Panthers lost for the fourth consecutive time, as simply business as usual.
He, like everyone else in the locker room and coaches’ offices, is trying to figure out what can be done to turn things around before it’s too late. And if Rivera believes Monday’s moves can help that cause, Adams is onboard.
“Only Coach can answer what makes it a good decision. It’s not for me to say if it’s good or bad, but like Coach said, he said it was the best decision for the team, so that’s what we’re going to go with,” Adams said. “He made that decision for the team.”
Rivera relieved first-year defensive line coach Brady Hoke and second-year defensive backs assistant Jeff Imamura of their duties. Rivera also took over play-calling duties from first-year defensive coordinator Eric Washington.
“I just told the players. I think they had gotten wind before I could tell them,” Rivera told reporters after his Monday morning team meeting. “I’d say their reaction was what it was. They just took it in stride and go forward from there.”
They took it in stride in part because Rivera, a successful defensive coordinator before finding success as Carolina’s head coach, has been hands-on with the Panthers’ third defensive coordinator in as many years since Day One. While Rivera's collaboration with Washington during the week is nothing new, Rivera said he “really got involved yesterday as things unfolded.”
After the Buccaneers took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards for a touchdown, it appeared that Rivera began taking on a more active role. Tampa totaled 207 yards in the first half, but the Buccaneers were limited to 108 yards in the second half.
“There were a couple of calls that we adjusted (at halftime), which is normal, but he (Rivera) made the adjustment,” Adams said.
Adams is hopeful the coaching moves can jump-start the defense because the Panthers’ proud unit will take answers anywhere it can get them. Still, he and his teammates are taking it upon themselves regardless of the changes around them.
“It’s frustrating. We can look in hindsight, we can look back and say ‘We should’ve won in Detroit; we should’ve won in Washington; Seattle, we definitely should’ve won,’” Adams said. “But at the end of the day, coaches put us in a good position by making calls, and on third-and-15, we can’t let a ball go over our head. Third-and-17, fourth-and-3, we got to get off the field and that’s on us as a defense.
“That’s ownership; you can’t put that on the coaches because they put us in the position. We all look bad because we’re a team. For the most part, we should’ve gotten it done and put these coaches in a better position.”
While the last month has been demoralizing and Monday’s moves were sobering, Adams said hope remains. Yes, the Panthers have dropped from 6-2 to 6-6, but the losing skid still hasn’t dropped them out of the playoff race.
“It’s a disappointing loss but when we look at it, it’s crazy because we still have a chance,” Adams said. “Morale is still up. We've still got faith and we still believe that we can go out and start ripping off some wins.
“We lost four in a row; why can’t we win four in a row?”