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Carolina Panthers

Transcript: Gettleman and Rivera discuss McCaffrey

General manager Dave Gettleman on why Christian McCaffrey was the right choice for Carolina: "There are a number of things. He's a young man who has a pro's approach already. He knows what it takes. He understands the game. He has elite skills in terms of running, his vision, his run-patience, his receiving skills and he can step on the gas and go. On top of that, he's a big-time punt returner. There's just so much value there that he was a guy we targeted and were hoping to get him. The Good Lord was smiling down on us."

Head coach Ron Rivera on the plan for McCaffrey in the Panthers' offense: "Well it's going to be about position flexibility more so than anything else. He's going to be used a lot in a way of how they used him at Stanford. When you watch the tape, break the tape down, you see him line up sometimes in the backfield as a running back. Sometimes he's a quarterback in their wildcat offense. Sometimes they motion him out and put him out to the slot. Sometimes they motion him out and put him wide. So we're looking at opportunities to create opportunities for him to make plays for us. That's the biggest thing more so than anything else. He'll be a great change-of-pace back. As far as Jonathan Stewart is concerned, here's a guy that touched the ball over 30 times per game and was very productive. His last two seasons at Stanford were about as productive as anybody has had in several years in college football. So we're very excited about it. I know Mike Shula is extremely excited. We're very fortunate too, in Lance Taylor who was there with him at Stanford. He gave us tremendous insight into his skillset, what he's capable of doing. We had an opportunity to visit with him on several occasions in terms of getting an understanding and feel as to the type of young man he is. As Dave said, that this young man is a pro. He's going to fit in very well to our culture and our locker room. It's one of those things that this is the kind of young man that can help make an impact very early for us."

Rivera on how having McCaffrey's college position coach (Lance Taylor) on the staff can impact things: "I think that's a big part of it. I know in terms of talking with Mike about the ways that they used him and the things that they did with him, that was very beneficial to us. When you look at the different things that he's capable of and how he will fit, we're excited about it. Again, there are some matchup situations that can occur. He's going to allow guys like Greg Olsen to do what he does best. He's going to allow Jonathan Stewart to be a better runner. He's going to help the receiving game. Again, the threat of him coming out underneath is going to create some opportunities for other guys. We're very excited about how he's going to fit us and the things he can do for us."

Gettleman on targeting McCaffrey with the No. 8 overall pick: "He was the target. The value on the versatility and the kid as a person is just too much."

Gettleman on the process of zeroing in on McCaffrey: "I think it's when you spend time talking to him. He's got a great family background. He's been around the NFL his whole life. He just gets it. He understands it. That right there is huge. Like I said, he's been around NFL locker rooms his whole life. I was with his dad in Denver and his dad was a pro. The acorn didn't fall far from the tree."

Rivera on McCaffrey's pre-draft visit to Charlotte: "I think there are a lot of intangibles that he has that you really can't measure. Once you get to sit down and talk to him, once you get to ask him questions and listen to his answers and then some of the things that he just says, you just get a sense that this man does get it and does understand what it takes. That's a big part of the battle. Now he's going to have to learn, grow and become part of it. Well I think he's halfway there. I think that was pretty exciting. I do know this, when we brought him in as one of our 30 visits, he had the opportunity to spend time with some of our guys. Some of the responses that we got – we brought in 29 of the 30 visits we were allowed and we got a lot of positive responses about all the guys that we brought in. When our players are around, we love for them to meet the guys. It's interesting to hear some of their perspectives. The responses on him were all positive as well. We're excited about this. Like I said, I really do look forward to seeing him fit in our locker room."

Rivera on how McCaffrey can help Cam Newton and Co.: "I think this is a guy that you can get the ball into his hands in many different ways and quick. So we're pretty excited about that. He's going to take a lot of pressure off of him. I think doing some of the things that we want to do in terms of the matchups we can create with him – again, moving him around and watching how the defenses will react to him, it's going to be big thing that will really help our quarterback and help the rest of our offense. Again, a lot of things get told when you start moving backs in and out of the backfield."

Rivera on McCaffrey's ability as a return man: "He'll start off as a punt returner. I know you guys saw some of the tape on him, he's very dynamic. If you can pick up 10-12 yards on a punt return, that's one less first down you have to worry about as an offense. I think his ability to return is going to be big for us. It's one of those things I learned from one of my really good friends in the league, Dave Toub who is the special teams coach for Kansas City – if you get a guy that's dynamic back there, get the guys in front of him to buy him. All you need to do is give this guy a little bit of room, that's what they're going to work for is give this guy a little bit of room. He can make good things happen for us."

Rivera on McCaffrey's adjustment to the NFL: "Picking up what we're going to do offensively and picking up the different things that we're going to have him do. I think getting used to and understanding the speed of the game as far as the pro game. He's always played fast. He's always been in that type of a situation. Now he has to adapt and get used to it which I believe he will do very quickly. As Dave said, and Dave knows because he's been around Ed McCaffrey a long time, Christian has been around it most of his life."

Gettleman on McCaffrey passing on pre-draft workout requests: "I think a big part of that had to do with what happened to the cornerback from Washington, Sidney Jones. There's a lot of guys that are concerned about that as far as those types of things and we had no issue with that. Again, from my perspective, what are you going to get out of a private workout? The biggest thing you're going to get out of it is the same thing you get on tape watching his pro day, watching the combine. To us, we really do value the interview process. We do things a little bit different when we're at the combine. When we bring kids in – kids, young men – we do things a little bit different with them. We try to find other things beyond football that I think helps us and that's important. That's probably the biggest thing that we do. We try to dig a little bit deeper and again, it's about spending as much time as we can with these guys. We did the same thing with Cam. We did the same thing with Luke. Right on down the line, the guys that we target for the most part are the guys that we tried spending the most time with."

Rivera on importance of football IQ: "It's been very important. First of all, if you bring in smart football players, guys that get it and understand, that's a little bit less teaching that you're going to have to do in terms of the basics. So now you can get going full speed, right away. You can speak the language with the whole group instead of just having to go with baby steps. I think that helps you as a football team. It gets you rolling very quickly. Secondly, I think it builds confidence very quickly in these guys when their teammates know they know what they're doing. So to have these types of guys there, that's huge. Third, we don't have to worry about them off the field. If you don't have to worry about that, that takes a lot of pressure off of you. I think that's big. That's why it's very important we bring the right kind of young men into this environment."

Gettleman on questions about McCaffrey's durability: "It's really funny. I read about this question on his durability, and the kid had one injury in his college career. I had no question. He had a little MCL (injury) this year and he played with it. I had no question on his durability. We went back and it's funny, you try to do as much research as you can. I sat in my office Saturday and (assistant general manager) Brandon (Beane) and I watched a bunch of more film on Christian and then we started talking about who are the smaller backs in our league that have not only played well, but played well for a reasonably long period of time. Brian Westbrook, same size. Curtis Martin, same size. LeSean McCoy, same size. I'm drawing a blank. There were six or seven guys. Reggie Bush. So I wasn't concerned about it. I really wasn't. He does a great job. First of all, he has a great understanding of what it takes to prepare and he's been doing this his whole life."

Gettleman on McCaffrey's running ability: "What I think is very unique about Christian is – the best tackle-box runner I've ever seen is Curtis Martin when he came out of Pitt. Christian is right there with him. Running in that tackle box takes unique vision and unique foot quickness and he's got it. Curtis Martin had it. He had a great career, a Hall of Fame career. This kid has that kind of skill."


Gettleman on McCaffrey's catch ability: "He has suction cups on the end of those wrists, I'm telling you right now. He's just unbelievable. He's got soft hands. You don't hear the balls hit his hands. There aren't very many cats that can do what he does."

Rivera on McCaffrey's similarties to Eagles running back Darren Sproles: "Him and Reggie Bush were the two guys I likened him to. Reggie bush was such a versatile back. He did so many different things, especially when he was with the Saints. Then I was fortunate enough to be around Sproles, watching him as a punt returner and then watching him as a third-down back and then watching him come in and do some things on first and second as well. Then his versatility, that was the exciting thing. The unique thing about Christian like those other guys is he gets it, he understands. That's a huge plus. Those are the two guys I likened to him right away."

Rivera on McCaffrey's versatility: "When you look at the Stanford type, there are times where – I counted a game where he had 28 carries from the backfield and was split out into the wide receiver formation six times and four of those six times, they threw the ball at him. So there's these things that when you watch and look at what he's capable of doing, how he impacts a defense. I watched him motion out and all of a sudden I saw three guys on the defensive side come running out over here and then the quarterback ran the ball up the middle for about 12 yards. He's going to create opportunities for other people just by his movements as well."

Rivera on Lance Taylor's assessment: "The biggest thing is he said – and remember, Lance was with us when we got Luke (Kuechly) – he said he's got Luke's kind of DNA. That, I thought, was a real interesting comment. One of those kinds of guys that's just all about football and you guys are going to see that very quickly when you get an opportunity to visit with him. It was really unique. I was fortunate enough to be out on the west coast so I stopped off at his pro day. I had the chance to watch him, watch the way he handled himself in his preparation, watched him perform. One of the benefits of having a guy that coached the guy is he had some pretty good tape that probably nobody else in the league saw that we got to see. We were very fortunate like I said that Lance was there and have that stuff. He'd say, 'Look at this, Coach.' It was some impressive stuff."

Gettleman on if he planned along to pick an offensive playmaker: "You can't do that. You really can't. You go through your readings and you see where it falls. I'm just old school. You don't artificially boost a guy up the board just because you like him. A guy has to earn his grade. He has to earn his value. Christian certainly earned his value."

Rivera on what he said to McCaffrey during draft-time phone call: "'Welcome. We're fired up. We've got an opportunity to do something special with you on our football team.' He was very excited. He was beside himself. You could hear the family members in the background. He was telling everybody. That's always kind of a unique thing to be able to hear that. Again, I'm just real thrilled about who we have as a young man that is going to be part of our football team."

View photos of the Carolina Panthers' 2017 first-round draft pick Christian McCaffrey

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