Rivera readies team for training camp and beyond

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – About 15 minutes before meeting time Tuesday evening, Panthers players and coaches began trickling into the McMillian Theater on the Wofford College campus.

About seven minutes later, they started streaming in, filling all the seats and then some.

After rookies Christian McCaffrey and Curtis Samuel served as warm-up acts of sorts, briefly entertaining their new teammates with their musical talents, head coach Ron Rivera took center stage.

He showed off a talent of his own – the ability to inspire a football team.

"Play consistently at a high level," Rivera while reviewing a series of messages projected onto the front wall aimed at setting expectations for training camp but also for the season as a whole. "And win. And win. That's the bottom line, guys. That's what it's about."

Rivera had the undivided attention of the jam-packed theater, even though his detailed discussion of standards for training camp surely was nothing new for most of the veterans. But those veterans could vouch better than anyone when Rivera told his team that things will get tough at times, will get hard at times.

"But believe me, you can push yourself through," he said. "You've got to understand how to do it because we're counting on you – every single guy in this room."

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Rivera began his 13-plus minutes in front of the group by sharing one of his favorite tried-and-true philosophies: "Control Your APE."

"Attitude. Preparation. Effort," Rivera explained. "Playing physical with the right attitude. Playing fast because of your preparation. Playing hard and giving great effort.

"Guys, those are very important. I really truly believe in them, and I expect you to as well."

Rivera wore the mantra on his sleeve – quite literally – sporting a T-shirt featuring the saying. Then at the end of his time, he wore his heart on his sleeve.

Earlier in the day when fielding questions from the media, Rivera was asked if his team would draw motivation from a preseason prognostication that the Panthers would finish dead-last in the NFC South with a 7-9 record. He halfheartedly said, "I think so," but he wholeheartedly shared some sentiments with his team to wrap up his message on the eve of camp.

"7-9. Last in the NFC South. That's what all the pundits are predicting for this football team," Rivera said, his voice and body language filled with passion. "I'm not going to stand for what happened last year; I'm not going to accept it. But that's what they think of us as a football team, what they think of the guys returning from last year. That's what they think of the free agents we signed. That's what they think of our rookie class. That's what they think of our coaches, of me."

Rivera then shared what he thinks of his team.

"We're going to know what our intent is. Our intent, men, is to win it all. That's the bottom line – to win it all," he said. "We're going to do things the right way, and we're going to get it done."

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