Comments from Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera following the team's rookie camp practice.
On if the Panthers' first day of camp went the way he expected: Yes. It's always kind of hard, because it's the first time that they are doing things the way you want them done. So they've got to learn how to do it and do it the right way. Then with the new rules that have come about through the CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement), we're trying to feel our way through it to make sure we do things the right way. It was actually pretty good. I was very encouraged. There are a lot of good things that came out from a lot of the young guys that we have out there.
On what he hopes to accomplish during the three-day rookie camp: Development. We've got three different sets of rookies: drafted ones, PFAs (priority free agents - undrafted rookies) and invitees - the camp guys that we'll get a chance to take a look at. From each group we want to see something. From the drafted guys, obviously, we want to see that we made the right decisions and we want to see them develop in the three days. From the PFAs, we want to see that they can compete. From the third group, we want to see if there are a couple of diamonds in the rough that we can bring in and become part of what we want to do as we go into OTAs, minicamp and training camp.
On first-round draft choice Luke Kuechly: He's exactly what we thought he is. He's an athletic, big guy that runs well, a very smart football player, very sharp. He handled things very well for us, and I'm pretty excited about what we got from him today. He's going to learn and grow within our defense, and we feel very confident about his abilities.
On how Kuechly looked: He looked good. We put a little bit of pressure on him, stressed him a little bit having to learn both positions (weakside and middle linebacker). But we think he's that kind of football player, that kind of athlete - a very sharp, heady guy but very athletic and physical. So we're pretty excited about what he can do.
On the key factors in determining what position Kuechly plays: How he works with the other 10 guys on the defensive unit. It will be interesting to see how he meshes with them. He was meshing with a couple of guys that are part of the group right now. (Safety) Jonathan Nelson, who knows what we're doing, was helping with the calls; that really helped Kuech a little bit. I think it's good to see how he's going to interact with these guys. Then once we get him back here, we'll see how he handles things with the veterans.
On if he has a plan for what position Kuechly will play: We'll start him on the outside and then we'll rotate him inside. But he'll start on the outside, and Jon (Beason) will be in the inside. I've talked with Jon about him playing inside and outside as well. It's going to be an interesting experiment as we go through this, because we want to make sure we put the best unit on the football field and the best combination of players.
On Kuechly wearing the same number, 59, that Rivera wore in the NFL: There's no legacy for him to worry about there, so he'll be fine.
On how confident he is that linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis will be 100 percent: I'm pretty confident. Based on what I've seen, it's just a matter of time before they are 100 percent and on the football field doing things that we need them to do. With the combination of linebackers that we have, there's probably going to be five or six guys that will rotate and play in certain packages and give us some diversity as far as what we want to do on the defensive side of the football.
On if punt returner Joe Adams did anything that stood out: When you watch returners, some guys struggle to get underneath the ball, but he seems to do it naturally, in a fluid motion. He gets back and sees where the ball is coming, he sees the apex of it, and then as it starts to drop he moves in to catch it. It was kind of exciting to watch. When he got the ball a couple of times, you could see that quick little burst and sidestep. You can see that this could potentially be something that we're looking for.
On what he hopes to see from the 32 players trying out during the camp: We could find that diamond in the rough; we could find a guy that belongs. We had some guys that gave us great effort today and we're pretty excited about what we saw. We'll get an opportunity to evaluate the tape once we get upstairs.
On if any of the players trying out caught his eye: I think at a couple of different positions there may be a guy or two that we feel could help us. But it will be interesting to see if these guys step up tomorrow again. Then by Sunday we should have a good feel for that. What we're trying to see is by Sunday how much did these guys progress from Friday. If they do that, then you know you've got some coachable guys, you've got some smart football players. If not, if guys start to regress or they don't get better, then you know that you want to move on. We'll see as we go through this. Each day we'll evaluate the tape and see who's stepping up.
On if his expectations for the players in camp are different than what they would be for the veterans on the roster: Very much so. The biggest thing is these guys have to learn to do things the way we want them done. Once we get to Sunday, we should see a little bit more improvement. That's what we're really looking for - to see how these guys improve. What that will tell us is some of these guys are coachable, some of these guys from the first day to the third day picked it up and started to play faster. Some guys are still hesitant, still kind of flopping around a little bit, because they are not sure where they need to be. As they grow within this three-day camp, I think you will see a couple guys step to the forefront.
On having all seven draft choices signed by the start of minicamp: I think it's a sign of the times. It comes about because of what happened with the new CBA. Having everybody here is great. It gives us an opportunity to start working from day one. Based on the rules, most of them will be able to stay here once we finish this camp and be part of what we're going to do as we go through the OTA and minicamp process with the veterans.
On safety D.J. Campbell's injury: During one of the drills he caught his cleat inside his shoelace and rolled his ankle. They were able to tape him up, and he went out and competed as best he could.