Skip to main content
Carolina Panthers

Panthers turn page in different ways


Four months to the day after the Panthers woke up to the reality that their storybook 2015 season didn't produce the happy ending they'd hoped for, players and coaches received their NFC Championship rings.

Exactly seven weeks after receiving the rings, players and coaches reported to training camp for the unofficial opening of the 2016 season. General manager Dave Gettleman arrived at Wofford College wearing his ring.

"I think it's important that we all understand what we accomplished last year and that we didn't quite get it done," Gettleman said. "A little bittersweet. So near, yet so far."

In some ways, Super Bowl 50 is so near yet not-so-dear in the memory banks of Gettleman and the rest of the organization. In some ways, especially with Thursday's preseason opener at the Baltimore Ravens fast approaching, it seems so far away.

Head coach Ron Rivera attempted to use the ring ceremony in early June as a turn-the-page moment for his team, but he understands and accepts that not everyone processed it the way he did.

"Each guy handles situations and circumstances their own way. To expect guys to all look at it the same way is unfair," Rivera said. "Each guy will handle it their own way, but at the end of the day when it comes time to play, now it's time to move forward because now it's 2016."

Take the examples of second-year linebacker Shaq Thompson and ninth-year fullback Mike Tolbert. Thompson, upon arrival at camp, was asked when he closed the books on his memorable rookie season.

"We turned the page when we had the little ceremony when we got our rings," Thompson said. "It's over and done with. Last season is done. It's out. This is a new beginning, a new year, a new season. We're starting over."

Moments later, Tolbert offered a decidedly different take.

"For him, it may be over, but I'm going on year number nine and he's year two," Tolbert said. "I know those moments are precious. I cherish every moment that I have, and it's something that we want to get back to."

Tolbert hasn't watched Super Bowl 50. In fact, he said that if he even sees a flash of the Denver Broncos on television, he flips the channel.

"I don't think you necessarily want to close the page," Tolbert said. "Everybody has a past, and that past makes them who they are today, and that's part of the Carolina Panthers' past. We've got to learn from it, grown from it, and that's going to make us stronger."

By contrast, tight end Greg Olsen watched the game on the plane ride back from the Super Bowl, but he sees both sides of the coin.

"It is what it is. We all saw the game, saw what happened," Olsen said. "They played better than us that day. The NFL comes down to that. We don't get best-of-seven series.

"I think anybody in the Panthers' world would have loved to run it back and started over, but that's not how football works. We got one shot, we missed our shot. The nice thing is, we're 0-0 right now and have another run at it."

View photos of Panthers players as they celebrate winning the 2015 NFC Championship.

Related Content