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Carolina Panthers

Rivera's remarks: Fan Fest


Comments from Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera following the team's Fan Fest practice at Bank of America Stadium.

On the Fan Fest experience: I was thrilled. I really was. Our players responded to the energy that was out there that our fans brought. Just before we went on the field, I talked to the guys about establishing this as our house, this is our territory. When you come here, you're going to know you played here. And we're going to do some stuff to get our fans into. I was really excited about the way they (the fans) responded to our guys and the way our guys responded to them. That really got me fired up, and I know it helped our guys. This was a practice with a lot of energy, a good tempo. We did some good things. We had to slow it down a couple of times because of the heat and we had a couple of guys get a little tired because we had some number issues with some injuries. But for the most part I thought they handled it very well.

On his impressions of newly signed wide receiver Legedu Naanee: I thought Naanee came in and picked up right where he left off when he was in San Diego. Chud (offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski) and I have experience with the young man, and he's got a great feel for what we do offensively. I think he's going to help us. The young guys that we have that are working to be receivers for us can learn from a guy like that with that kind of experience, having played on playoff teams, teams with winning records, and I think that's important.

On if he knows any more about defensive tackle Ron Edwards' triceps injury: They are in the process of waiting for it to calm down a little bit before they decide exactly what the extent of it is. We'll, hopefully, know something probably by tomorrow or Monday. I don't want to speculate on that.

On if the Panthers will sign another veteran defensive tackle if Edwards will be out for an extended period of time: That's something we most certainly have to talk about. Marty and I have talked a little bit about what our options are, what the possibilities could be. We're going to wait and find. Once we know definitively, we'll make that decision.

On rookie defensive tackles Terrell McClain and Sione Fua and how they are going to have to step up with Edwards injured: They're both exciting. They are young players that have got a lot to learn. Fua brings the bulk and size that we're hoping to have up front that allows our linebackers to run and make plays going downhill as opposed to going sideways. That's going to be important to us. McClain is a quick, athletic guy - a guy that can get vertical and to the crease and add something to your pass rush. He can be a dynamic, exciting guy as far as that's concerned.

On if he is pleased with the Panthers' progress after a week of practice: I am pleased where we are in terms of understanding what we have to do to get better. Practicing at a specific tempo, understanding what's expected of them. The other day, we had a little issue with a couple things and we're working to get those things straightened out. The biggest thing we want them to understand is we want practice at a specific tempo, a specific way. When good things happen, bad things happen, we want to maintain our composure and we want to go to the next play. They are starting to understand that. That's probably the most important thing and the first step that I want taken here, and I believe they're getting that. We've got a ways to go in terms of grasping what we want to do with our schemes offensively, defensively and special teams. That's a work in progress. But I liked the work we did today. We showed some progress, we made some progress. At the same time, we made some mistakes but things that most certainly can get corrected. These are mistakes that will be corrected and we will do them the right way.

On quarterback Cam Newton making some plays and getting the fans excited: He's going to do that; he's got that kind of ability, as does Jimmy (Clausen). Jimmy made a couple of good throws as well today. What was even more exciting was some of our guys, our playmakers, made plays. Steve Smith, who has been doing it all camp in my opinion, made a couple big catches for us. Greg Olsen and (Jeremy) Shockey, made a couple plays. When you have guys that are supposed to make plays make plays for you, that's exciting. We had some guys in some important roles for us make some plays. Barney (tight end Gary Barnidge) made a great catch and run for us. I was excited for him. He's been practicing very well. We brought in Legedu; he made a couple of catches. Armanti (Edwards) got in the mix. There are a lot of guys contributing to what we're trying to do. A lot of young guys are stepping up and showing they have the ability. But again, we've got a ways to go because we've got to learn the concepts of what we want to do first and foremost.


On what he knows now about the quarterback competition that he did not know at the start of training camp: I'm still confused about it. I've made no decisions on that. Honestly, we're not going to make any decision until the very end because I want guys focused and competing. When it's that time, we'll pull each guy aside and we'll let them know what direction we're going to head for each game as it gets closer and closer to that game time. The best indicator will probably be two days before each game, because that's when we'll start to focus on each upcoming preseason opponent. When we get to Week 3 of the preseason games, we'll probably have an answer a little bit sooner because that's going to be our mock game week. That will be what the whole game preparation is going to be like. We will do everything from our meetings in the morning to our walkthroughs to our practice to our meetings in the evening as we would during the regular season. We want to mock the entire week of what to expect during the regular season.

On what thinks of what he's seen so far from Newton: I'm excited about him. I think the young man brings something to the table. As I said, I think Jimmy has some great qualities that we like in both guys. As we evaluate it, we will play the best guy and we'll play the guys when they're ready to play. That's the honest answer I can give you right now.

On if he gets a sense of excitement when Newton steps on the field: I get excited when I see him out there. You do a lot of work and you try to find positives and things to build on. When you see that from your guys, you get excited about them when they have success, and he's no different from any of our other guys. I got excited when I saw Steve Smith make the play that he did today. I got excited when I saw Greg Olsen as well and some of the decisions Jimmy made throwing the ball downfield. Right now, we're in the throes of developing a team in terms of guys making plays. I was yelling on the field that playmakers make plays, and that's what's exciting about it. We have some guys right now that are stepping up. But we've got a ways to go though. Right now, we're doing some things individually that are terrific but we want to make sure we're doing those things within the scheme. Defensively, we did some really good things today. Our blitz package really showed. I was real pleased with (defensive coordinator) Sean McDermott with what he decided. One thing we did today was to call it up. Chud called his offense accordingly; Sean called his defense accordingly to how he would in a game. I was really pleased with the way they both handled it and I was real pleased with what we did defensively with some the blitz schemes as well. Our guys are getting it, they're beginning to understand, and that's probably the most important thing. But, again, we do have a ways to go. Once we learn and understand exactly where we need to be, I think you'll see an exciting, dynamic team.

On tight end Greg Olsen, what he does for the offense and being able to put him anywhere on the field: That's basically what happens for our entire tight end group. We've got four guys that have great ability, and you can mix and match all four. Every package from our 11 and 21 package, where you just have one tight end, guys who are versatile that can run and catch as well as block, those guys are going to be featured in that package. You get the 22 and 12 package where you're using two tight ends and you're going to shift one out, split one out, use one like a wide receiver, create mismatches, then specific abilities will be matched for those. Greg and Jeremy seem to have a great rapport with one another. In my opinion, I could see Chud using both those guys in those types of packages. I'm excited about it because it gives us some flexibility in terms of what we can do offensively.

On the role of the cornerbacks in the Panthers defense: The one thing Jim (former Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson) always wanted was corners that were physical and played with vision. That's what Chris (Gamble) is. He's a physical corner who's got good size and he plays with vision. Having him out there on the field, especially when you are bringing pressure, puts him in position to make plays even more so. One of the things that we did that happened my first year when I was with Jim and we did it in San Diego and we did it in Chicago was takeaways. It was a big thing that Jim preached about. The year before that we got there back in '99, that team was dead last in takeaways, and we went from last to first in takeaways I believe in '99. That's something that Sean and I feel very strong about as far as what we want to do defensively. We want to major in takeaways.

On how close the coaches are to completing installation: It's going to be ongoing. Under the old system, we would have had a mini-camp, which would have been five practices, 14 OTAs and then five more (practices) with our second mini-camp. That's 24 practices that we've missed. Then being limited as we are now with the new practice regiment, we're obviously behind. To put a number on it would be very unfair, especially if I miss that number. As we prepare, and I've talked with Chud and I've talked with Sean and I've talked with Brian (special teams coordinator Brian Murphy), it's all about our base fundamentals. We've got to do what we do and be fundamentally sound and understand that we have to take steps. And the first step right now is to get through all of our basic installations, and today was just another one of those basic installations. We're at a point where we haven't even had a chance to do goal line, backed up, four-minute offense, short yardage. We've had to focus on the meat of we think you're going to be into, and that's the third downs, red zone. Get that part of the game down first, and then we can start focusing on the rest of it - four-minute, short yardage, goal line. Those are the things that suffer because you don't get that opportunity to get those extra practices. We're a little bit behind, but everybody else is. We just keep going forward.

On if he would consider moving safety Sherrod Martin to cornerback: I think all three of the guys (Martin, Charles Godfrey and Jordan Pugh) that we having playing our safety positions are three, young dynamic players that all have coverage skill abilities. To try and move guys around and experiment right now is not the right time. We are very comfortable with those three guys. We think there is going to be some sort of rotation. In talking with Sean, we are going to find ways to put guys on the field. We will play the best players, and I believe that. If our three safeties are part of our best nickel package group, all three of those guys will find a way to get on the field. If only two of them are the best, then two of them will be on it. That's just the way we'll look at it. To say we're going to have Sherrod here or not as a corner, we're not going to do something like that right now. Maybe in an emergency situation one of those three guys could come down and play (corner). But the one thing we have done is we have taken a look at rotating those guys possibly as a nickel. If we ever get in that situation we could use them as the nickel. Again, it goes back to whether we run out of bodies, as well. Because of the situation we've had with some of the hamstrings, we've done that and that's why we've done it.

On when cornerback Chris Gamble will practice: Chris is getting better and better. He had the stomach issue and is working through it. Because of that, the training staff wants to bring him along gradually. We've had him working with (strength and conditioning coach) Joe Kenn. He worked with Joe Kenn today in our new facility here. He looked to be getting stronger and stronger. Hopefully, sometime early next week we'll have him back on the football field.

On why cornerback Captain Munnerlyn did not practice: He woke up (this morning) and had a tight calf. We tried to work him through it in the walkthrough. He came in and he was pretty sore. He had come in earlier today to get some treatment and work on it. Just before he came out, they just couldn't get it loose, and we didn't want him to go out there and injure himself any further. We treated this as an installation practice; we didn't want to feature anything or try and do anything different. We didn't try to force to get anybody out there. We didn't want to do that.

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