Below is the transcript from Ron Rivera's press conference with the media on Friday morning at the Harrow School.
How has the team acclimated so far?
We had a good morning of meetings. Today everyone was on time. They seemed to be kind of chipper so pretty excited about that. Hopefully they will continue to acclimate to the time zone.
What's been the biggest difference so far?
Probably the biggest difference right now is the weather. The turf is a little bit wet right now. I walked on it a little bit. I think the guys are pretty set for it. One of the things that we have talked about all week is trying to make this as normal a Friday as possible. We'll go through all of our regular Friday routine. This is situational football all day for us. We'll practice it as normal as we can, and once we finish up, we will head back to the hotel.
How about it raining again on a Friday?
That's kind of it. Last year, it was 12 out of 17 or something like that. But we'll make do. The guys are focused in on what the task at hand is and we'll continue our preparation as we get ready for Sunday's game. We wanted to keep today as similar to our regular routine as possible, obviously with the exception of being here in the UK.
How is Eric Reid doing?
Eric should get some snaps in today. With the wet turf, we'll have to be careful with a few guys. Just making sure the footing is good. But yeah, Eric should be out there.
Is Christian doing OK? How is his back?
Christian's fine. If we would have practiced yesterday, he would have participated. He's expected to participate today. He's gotten his treatments and stuff like he's supposed to. He just seems ready to roll. We're pretty excited about getting everybody on the football field today.
Did the back injury happen on the flip into the end zone?
I think it was. He didn't complain about it until afterwards. We wouldn't have known until he told us. He got treatment and our trainers have been real diligent with him. If we would have had practice yesterday, he would have participated.
Does Reggie Bonnafon continue to get opportunities like he did last week?
I know in Norv's eyes that he's pretty excited about things that Reggie has done. I told you guys this the other day: Reggie works very hard at his craft, because he takes the extra time to develop those things and he's starting to show it. He's one of those guys where the more football he plays, the more improvement he'll make. It was good to see him get the opportunity last Sunday and good to take advantage of it. To have Norv speak of him just shows you he has confidence, so don't be surprised if he gets some more opportunities.
Does playing over here act as a disadvantage?
We've talked about it. I've tried to get them to understand that both teams have to come over here. So there's no reason not to feel like you have a great experience in front of you. I told them to focus and I use a friend of mine's saying: "Be where your feet are." So wherever you are, focus in on wherever you are 100 percent. When you're on the practice fields, when you're in the meeting room, when you're on the game field, be where you are. When you're not, be with your family, your friends and around town, enjoy that. It's a great experience and for some of these guys, it might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It's been terrific, it really has. I got an opportunity to go out about town last night and just be with other folks. What a great experience. The people here in the UK, the people here in London have been very warm.
Who have been the most recognizable players to local people here?
Christian has been very recognizable. Once people find out that he's the guy that flipped, they flip about him. It's been kind of cool to see the response for that. Luke has been very recognizable. Obviously Efe. I think that they recognize some of our guys just by their size. When three or four of them are just walking down the street and you see the folks look at them like 'Oh, they must be American footballers.' It's kind of nice and I think our guys appreciate it. There's a whole group of them that just seem to be enjoying themselves so far.
Have special teams been able to be outside on the field?
They are actually out there right now working on their snaps and their holds and their kicks. It's a good little time for those guys to get used to the turf. The stadium has a hole in the middle of it. So the weather will potentially affect parts of the field. We wanted to get them out so they came in early with us.
Were there opportunities to come to London before and did David Tepper make a big difference in coming now?
There may have been opportunities before. It was a decision made not to, I guess. Mr. Tepper most certainly was open to it. I think now with the push that the league seems to be making for some global recognition for this sport to not just play in the United States but to play in the UK and the potential for it to grow is there. The popularity of the Super Bowl shows that there is a desire for this to become a global game which I think would be really cool. It's a tremendous game. It's been a really cool experience. Back in the day, I had the fortune of playing in Berlin, Gutenberg, Sweden and got the opportunity to coach in Ireland. It's kind of neat to get the opportunity to go overseas and get exposed to different countries and different cultures and kind of see the impact that football is making. This was way back when I played so that was 25 years ago.
Were there talks about which day to come over?
Yes we did. And it's interesting because it's kind of why we came over different than a lot of teams usually do. One other team came when we did, coming out on a Wednesday night and landing Thursday. Having a walkthrough on Thursday and then trying to have that Friday, Saturday and Sunday as normal as possible. Friday is such an important practice day for us. I just didn't want to treat it like 'move it and hurry up and get it over with.' We wanted to make sure that we had time to focus in and work on that aspect of our game. Our Fridays are situational football days. So having talked to some of the other teams, we felt like this was the best situation for us. There's only one other team that did that and that was Seattle and they won. Having learned that, we thought there was something to it. I've been a part of a team that came over and spent the week, and I've been part of a team that came over and went late. It's kind of one of those things that you look at and try to find a little bit of an edge. We feel like this might give us an opportunity.
With the success of Efe Obada, will the NFL pursue more European athletes?
Yes, very much so. As you look at a young man like Efe, with the success he's had playing American football, a lot of it is that he doesn't have any bad habits. Everything that he's learning and growing and becoming is doing those things for the first time. As you watch his practice, when he makes a mistake, it's like for the first time. He doesn't make a lot of repetitive mistakes because he doesn't have bad habits. When you see him have success, it's because he's learning to do things the right way. I think as far as the European athletes are concerned, there's a whole new pool of athletes that are out there that we have to take a look at. Whether they play soccer or rugby or I should say, European football, these guys are tremendous athletes. The league most certainly is looking at it and the league has a program right now to bring foreign athletes into the mix.
How does winning contribute to the Panthers brand?
Very much so. If you talk to our folks and go back to the 2013 season and how it all translated into sales. That's a big part of it. What we did in 2014. We had a lull in the middle and then we started to roll and got into the playoffs. What happened in December and January and February, we carried it right into 2015. Winning is a huge part of it. When you have success, it kind of filters down to everybody. It works hand in hand too. Sometimes when you're down, that part of it still has to bring fans in. That's what Amazon Prime did for us. I think it also brought some people saying 'OK I get it. They went through some real hard times and their quarterback got hurt and they tried to fight through it.' As you look at what each side does for one another, it's important. But winning, though, is the key. Everything you do has to be geared toward one goal. You have to have the same vision, and that is to win the Super Bowl. If you do that, and you put yourself in that position and you roll through it, you're gonna have success on and off the field.
What is the difference in the pass rush from Week 2 to now?
There's a huge difference. I've talked about this before, but you now have a group of guys that have played together. They have a feel for one another. And we also have Bruce Irvin back on the field. Bruce brings a little different attitude. Here's a very experienced guy that's had a lot of success in this league and the young guys just gravitate towards him. I've watched our young outside linebackers be around Bruce and Mario and I see them also understanding that they have to work with the DTs. Bruce talks to Gerald and he talks to Dontari and Kyle and Vernon. You see those guys understand that they have to go talk to them. Yesterday coming off the practice field, I was watching Brian and Dontari talk. Those are things when you see these guys communicating what they are doing and working on, then you feel that you're growing and getting better and having success. I think that's really cool because now going into our sixth game, they're facing a different group of guys up front so I'm kind of excited about that.
On Tampa's strengths
The one thing we know they do is rush the passer well. They are an attacking, aggressive style of defense. I think a lot of that is a reflection of their defensive signal caller. (Todd Bowles) has always been an aggressive blitzer. On the offensive side, they throw the vertical pass as well as anybody. They have a good complement of receivers and tight ends that can get vertical. And they do run the ball."
On the Panthers' brand growing
That's one of the things that Stephanie and I talked about when we got to Charlotte, was where were all the jerseys? We were coming from San Diego, Chicago and Philadelphia where the teams were so entrenched in the community. When I got there the team was only 16, 17 years old. Now, when you are there, you get to see our jerseys being worn by everybody. Our guys have done such a good of building our brand in our community. You do see the growth and the recognition. It's really cool for our guys. And I do think some of the things that Mr. Tepper has done to increase our visibility has truly helped.
I was on vacation in Italy this summer and this German couple came up to me and said, 'Hey, I recognize you. You are the Panthers coach.' It's kind of cool. This game is truly growing and it's growing globally.
Is the team getting a chance to visit Tottenham Stadium before game day?
We will go there tomorrow and do our walkthrough. I understand it's a brand-new stadium. Our president comes from Manchester City – he was part of their group – so he's got a very good background in what the new stadium is like. We know it's going to be field turf, so I think our guys are pretty excited about that. We also understand it's a stadium where the fans are right there. That will be another thing that's a little different. We'll have an opportunity to take a look at the sightlines tomorrow.
On learning from previous long road trips
We've tried to keep everything as normal as possible. That's what we've tried to stress. We had some things get in the way in 2016 (week out west in Oakland/Seattle) and that falls on me. Having a chance to look back on it, there are some things we most certainly did change to try to keep it as normal as possible.