CHARLOTTE – Following Sunday's victory over the Green Bay Packers, players fielded questions from the media for the first time since an investigation was launched into alleged workplace misconduct involving Carolina Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson.
Head coach Ron Rivera made sure the team was aware of the investigation during a team meeting Saturday night.
"I really have no comment on it other than to say there's an investigation that's going to go on," Rivera said. "We'll let it takes its course, let it go through the process.
"The only thing I can speak on is what he's done for me as far as I'm concerned. A lot of you know I had a house fire (in 2014), and he was tremendous for Stephanie and I and was tremendous in supporting us. My brother passed, and Mr. Richardson was there, helping me to get to the funeral and back. I can't speak on anything other than that."
Tight end and team captain Greg Olsen said Rivera gave the players a "general idea" of the developments so they weren't caught off-guard on game day.
"We have a lot of high-character guys in this locker room who understand what our role is here and where we fit into this organization and what we're here to do – and that's to play football and represent this team as well as we can on and off the field and give our fans something to be proud of," Olsen said after the Panthers earned a 31-24 victory over Green Bay. "As far as everything else goes on, that kind of falls outside the scope of being a player. Obviously the last couple of days, steps have been made to address it, and we'll let those people do what they were hired to do."
Added fellow tight end Ed Dickson: "It's just very unfortunate this is coming out right now. I have a heavy heart for both sides in this."
Quarterback Cam Newton said the team doesn't take the situation lightly but joined Rivera, Olsen and others by referencing their positive personal experiences with Richardson.
"He's had a father-like role to a lot of players in that locker room, present and past," Newton said. "For me, I hope things don't alter my thinking about Mr. Richardson. But what I do know, he's given me some things I will forever be appreciative of."
From the perspective of the players on a Panthers team that improved to 10-4 and moved closer to claiming a spot in the NFC playoffs, the investigators will do their job while they do theirs.
"We just have to continue to move forward as players," Olsen said. "We have a lot of pride in what our job is here. We've got two huge games coming up, and the reality is that that's where our focus needs to be. Our focus elsewhere is not very productive."