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Players positive about Rivera hire

CHARLOTTE - Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis has spent time at Bank of America Stadium nearly every day since the season ended, and he's spent time with new head coach Ron Rivera on many of those days.

Based on what he's heard and seen so far, Davis can't wait for the days to come.

"We have sat down and talked about how he views this team and what he wants to do defensively," Davis said. "I walked away from that very excited about the possibilities.

"I think he's going to be a great coach. I think he's going to be a really good fit for this team."

Rivera, who played linebacker for the Chicago Bears for nine seasons and has been an assistant coach in the NFL for 14 seasons, has made a good first impression on Panthers players - in part because Rivera is a former player.

"That gives instant credibility to a new coach," left tackle Jordan Gross said. "Just because you haven't played doesn't mean you can't coach, but when you have played, that gives you a common bond with all the players. I think that's definitely a feather in his cap.


"He's been coaching in the league for a long time, so he kind of knows the pulse of the league and where everything is. I think he's going to do a great job."

Center Ryan Kalil, named a Pro Bowler along with Gross, solicited the opinions of others when he heard that Rivera would be taking over as head coach.

"From what I've heard from guys across the league who have played for him, they have nothing but respect for him," Kalil said. "A lot of people think really highly of him, plus his resume speaks for itself. He's definitely somebody who obviously knows what he's doing."

Linebacker Dan Connor said regardless of what direction the Panthers decided to go at head coach, it would have brought a different dynamic to things.

"When you get a new staff, it's almost like everybody is a rookie. You've got to prove yourself to all the coaches and establish how you work and how you play," Connor said. "It creates a new energy, and I think the level of play and competition will go up."

But while Connor pointed out that any coaching change would have a short-term effect, he's among those who believe that Rivera is capable of having a long-term effect – for the better.

"I'm excited about being coached by him and seeing him in action," Connor said. "He's a very serious guy. He looks like he could still play. He's big and thick and intimidating.

"His experience as a player and a defensive coordinator is going to beneficial. It will be good."

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