Transcript: Ron Rivera at the NFL Combine

Update on Julius Peppers: “Julius had the (shoulder) surgery and he’s been rehabbing. I know Marty is going to reach out and have that conversation with Julius eventually. It’s going to be sooner rather than later.”

On Jonathan Stewart: “Jonathan has meant an awful lot to this team. He’s been the physical presence on the offensive side that sets the tone and tempo. Last year, I like to tell everybody we were in Tennessee playing them in a preseason game and they got after us pretty good in the first quarter. We ran a couple of straight downhill plays with Jonathan and you could see everybody pick up after that. That’s what he’s meant to us.”

On replacing Stewart: “You have to find a guy that has similar characteristics hopefully and a guy that is willing to do that for you.”

On the other RBs on the roster: “It’s going to create some more opportunities for guys. It’ll mean some things will be a little bit different as far as what Christian’s role will be, what Fozzy’s role will be and what Cameron Artis-Payne’s role will be as we go into this. We have to go through free agency and the draft and we’ll see what happens.”

On wanting a guy like Jonathan to complement Christian: “I wouldn’t say you need to have a guy like Jonathan. You go back and look at what (Norv) did with Ladainian (Tomlinson), what he had with Frank Gore when he was in San Francisco – he’s had dynamic guys that are multi-faceted. They can run the ball inside and outside, they can catch the ball out of the backfield and pass protect. That’s what you’re really looking for, is that type of guy.”

On the RBs in this draft: “There are several really good looking backs in this draft. It’s really about the guy that you think is going to best fit what you want. I’m anxious to watch that group, because I think it’s a pretty dynamic group from top to bottom. I do think there is guy who could potentially help us.”

On more of an emphasis on having two solid backs: “We had that early on with DeAngelo and Jonathan setting the tone and tempo for us. I think you do need to have that in the NFL today. It’s tough to have one guy that just dominates a game for you. You have to have guys that have similar characteristics but also do something special that can separate them as well.”

On competitiveness of the NFC South: “The quarterback play, that’s a big part of it. Both have solid, stout offensive lines. Then they have playmakers around them.”

On trying to keep Andrew Norwell: “It’s going to be tough. It’s something that Marty has got to work through and look at the cap and really make a decision based off of that. We've talked extensively about what Andrew means to us, what he can mean to us and what would happen if we can keep him, what will happen if we can't keep him. Only time will tell. I know that Marty is scheduled to meet with (his agent) this week.”

On already having a highly paid guard in Trai Turner: “I think that does impact it. Trai has been such a solid player for us for so many years and has been a Pro Bowl player. Andrew being an All-Pro this year, it most certainly did raise the bar. He had a terrific year and he’s been nothing but a solid player for us every season.”

On Taylor Moton at tackle or guard: “I’d like to have Taylor where it fits us best. It could be either spot. He’s going to have an opportunity to see what he can do for us. I think Taylor had a really good year for us with some of the spot play that he was given. Position flexibility is going to be really important as we try to see how he’s going to develop.”

On WR group: “We look at who we have and try to slot where they are going to fit for us. Looking at Devin and saying, ‘Ok, Funchess is the one or the two.’ Looking at what we got with Damiere and Kaelin and Shep and right on down the line. Those other pieces that come in as you get them? Now where do they fit. Do you find a No. 1 in free agency or do you find a No. 2 in free agency and make the Devin the No. 1. During the draft the same process will come into play. We’ve got a lot to look at and discuss.”

On Curtis Samuel’s recovery: “He’s rehabbing, he’s been there every day. He’s got a tremendous attitude as far as that’s concerned. He’s attacking it completely. He looks really good. I don’t want to put a timeline on it and put any pressure on anybody to try and meet that.”

On safety spot after Kurt Coleman’s release: “We’re looking for a guy that is going to be able to pick up where Kurt left off as far as leadership. That’s going to be very important. We’ve got a group of young guys at corner and we’ve got to be able to have somebody help direct those guys. With Mike Adams we have a veteran that has been in our system now going into his second year. We’ll expect him to step up and do some other things for us as we go forward. We’ll see. But leadership will be a big piece of that.”

On Luke Kuechly, who's recovering from shoulder surgery: "The biggest thing I can tell you is he's been rehabbing. I see him in the training room every day that I've been around. He's again, doing a great job at it. As far as the timeline, I couldn't predict one." 

On erring on the side of caution with Kuechly's timeline: "The good thing about that is if he's going to miss any time in practice, it'll give guys like David Mayo and Jared Norris an opportunity to show us what else they can do. I think that's important because these young guys are going to have to show." 

On the importance of long snappers: "If you go back and look at it when I played, you'd go into a game with 22 on offense, 22 on defense and two specialists. Now you go into a game with three specialists: your kicker, your punter and now your long snapper. It is a vital part, and it showed in the Super Bowl – a bad snap and they missed an extra point. So it is vital."

On training a position player to long snap: "You can train people, but it's about experience, too. Snapping for the very first time, it's a big deal, and it's an important part of what you do." 

On adjustments Christian McCaffrey had to make in rookie season: "I think a big part of it is understanding the feel, the fit for pass protection. I think running inside and outside, and understanding the speed of the game. It's a little bit more as opposed to what he was used to. Although he played in a major conference, it's still about getting used to playing in the NFL-level of competition." 

On running backs who can catch coming out of the backfield: "I think it's huge because you can do so many things and you put a lot of stress on the defense. You look at guys like Christian with that type of ability and look what they did in New Orleans with (Alvin) Kamara. Guys that pose that type of threat are really going to put a lot of stress on defenses. So you need to understand that when you're attacking your opponent and understand what those offenses are trying to do. What kind of mismatches are they trying to create? Do they force you into a nickel as opposed to being in your base defense? So there's a lot of things that are created by guys that have that type of position flexibility." 

On former assistants Sean McDermott and Steve Wilks becoming head coaches: "It is kind of cool. I was fortunate to be part of Andy Reid's original coaching staff. When you look at it, I think there's like seven or eight guys that have gone on to become head coaches in this league. Then you add on Doug Pederson's success and now (Matt) Nagy being in Chicago, so that's really kind of cool. And to have a couple of guys that I worked with, who have coached with me to get their opportunities, I believe it's really part of what we should be doing as head coaches. That's trying to create opportunities for guys that work with us." 

On looking for players at the combine who are pro-ready: "You try to find guys that will be able to step up and contribute right away. I think that's very important because if you draft guys to replace players, they've got to be able to step in. You go back and look at some of the things we've done in Carolina; you notice that my first five years, we had a rookie start at every position. We did that a year ago as well when we started rookies at corner. We're going to do that because that's part of the game, and the sooner you can get those guys on the field, the sooner they can become educated and assimilate themselves to what you guys are trying to do." 

On offensive coordinator Norv Turner's first few weeks: "They've been cool, a lot of memories as to things that we did when we were in San Diego and watching how Coach handles things as far as the offense is concerned. Watching him talk about how he wants to approach things offensively, the way he wants to have things done. The excitement in his voice has been really cool. I was fortunate enough to be around him, to be part of the success we had in San Diego, so it's been good." 

On how Turner will change the offense: "I don't know how different the scheme will be because, again, a lot of the stuff started with Norv. When I brought Rob Chudzinski in, Chud had worked for Norv on a couple of occasions. So a lot of things that we do, we did when I was with Norv in San Diego. I think there are some things in terms of the way we're going to run the ball, the way he wants to attack that. Some of the throws that we'll make, some of the different types of routes that we'll run. But it's not going to be that much different in terms of overall scheme. But it will have Norv's flair to it." 

On if Turner will focus on getting the ball out of Newton's hands quicker: "I think a lot of it will be based on the personnel that we have and the way Norv sees it. I do know Norv's been looking at a lot of the tape that we've had the last couple of years, and he'll probably pull from those the things we did really well, look at things in the past and then look at some of the things Coach did when he was in Minnesota and San Diego. It will be interesting to see exactly what our characteristics will be on the offensive side."

On the backup quarterback situation: "First and foremost we've got to find out where DA is. Derek's been a big part of what we've done. He's been like having a coach in the meeting rooms and on the sideline. We'll see how things work out. But, yeah, there is an emphasis on that. It also may be time where we've got to start looking for that next guy, too. Bring DA back, draft a young guy or sign a young guy and develop him as well? We have to start looking in that direction. But first and foremost we have to see where DA is."

On if Turner views Funchess as a No. 1 receiver: "I know he likes Devin. You can watch all the tape you want and meet him now, but the most important thing is when he starts doing things for you. So it'll be interesting to see how things go as we start going through OTAs and minicamp. I think that'll be the first real introduction that Norv has to Devin and what Devin can do for us."

On Cam Newton’s health and reaction to Norv Turner hire: “It didn’t require anything. He’s doing real well. I had an opportunity to talk to him after we hired Norv. He came in to visit with Coach (Turner), so it really was kind of cool. I know he was going to go in and meet with Norv. I said to him, ‘How are you doing?’ And he said, ‘Well Coach, I’m excited but I’m nervous.’ I said, ‘What are you nervous about?’ He said, ‘Well Coach, think about what he’s done for Troy Aikman and all of those kind of guys.’ It was kind of cool to listen to the anticipation in his voice. Unfortunately that’s the only chance he had. April 16 we’ll get started.”

On the returned of injured defensive backs Corn Elder, Cole Luke: “I’m excited to have those guys back on the football field for us, as well as Demetrious Cox at safety – another young guy we have to make sure we have a chance to see coming off injured reserve. We’ve got a lot of young corners and safeties that we’ve got to see if they can step up to the challenge.”

On Graham Gano: “He’s high on the priority list. As far as the tag and all that good stuff, that’s something Marty has to deal with and take care of.”

On pairing two top tight ends: “Norv likes different personnel groupings, the two-back sets, the two-tight end sets, three-tight end sets. So having that next guy is very vital. We have that in Ed Dickson, but Ed is a free agent so we’ll have to see what happens there. But having Greg Olsen and whoever the other tight end is will be important to what we want to do offensively.”

On offseason: “We just control what we can, and that’s on the football side. That’s been going relatively smooth. I know this much, having seen Mr. Richardson last week: He’s very focused on the sale of the team. He’s been great. We’ve had a couple of conversations as far as the football team is concerned, but other than that things have gone very smoothly. When the Marty (Hurney) situation was taken care of, we just picked up where we had left off. For about 10 days I was pretty much trying to do everything, trying to keep everything going the way it should be. Our guys on the college scouting side continued to do their meetings to keep everything going. That way when he came back when went into draft meetings and picked up where they were. On the pro side they were getting everything prepped, getting everything ready for free agency, so again when they got back they just picked up from where they were. On the coaching side, we’ve been working on our scheme and on our reports for free agency and the draft. We really tried to keep it business as usual.”

On Hurney 2.0: “He’s a kinder, gentler Marty. He’s done a nice job. It’s been exciting because we sit down and talk about the direction we want to head with players from free agency and the draft, and it’s been really cool.”

On Eric Washington: “Eric was an intern I had back in the 2006 season (with the Bears), and when you’re done you sit down and talk before he went back to Northwestern. And I said to him, ‘If I ever get the chance, I’d like to bring you along.’ I got the chance and brought him along, and I’ve watched him grow and develop. I’ve always known he had a desire to be a coordinator, so I knew eventually he would get his chance. After Sean (McDermott) left and Steve (Wilks), Eric was going to be next. Working with Eric in terms of putting his staff together and working on the scheme, he’s been very methodical. He’s mapped it out very thoroughly. I like the way he coaches. … I think he’s ready, I really do. I think he’s ready for it.”

On Newton’s 2018 focus: “The biggest thing Cam has to understand going into this is that Norv is not here to change him. Norv is here to help. That’s one of the best things that Cam got that meeting with Coach, that he’s here to help. It’s really about improving himself, working on his game, on the way he’s going to approach the game. It’s going to be different because Norv does things differently. It will be a challenge for him, but I know it’s one that he wants.”

On changes next season: “The biggest thing is just knowing how we have to attack our opponents within the division. Mike Ditka always used to say that if you want to control the division, you have to win the division. Everything that we do will be to match up with the teams in our division, obviously. It’s a focus in terms of why you want big corners – all four teams want big corners because each team has a big receiver, and you’ve got to be able to match up there. You’ve got to be able to bring pressure inside to get after the quarterback. These are all things that we have to adjust to because of what they do and the personnel they have.”

On pressures of new ownership: “We have to understand. We’ve got to go out and show that we are very capable of what we do, that we continue to have sustained success. We’ve got to be on the top of our game. It does add a little bit of pressure, but you know, that’s the nature of the game. It really is one year at a time as far as whether you get next year. We’ll approach it that way. … There is going to be that sense that, ‘We’ve got to get it right.’”

On new contracts for him and Hurney: “It shows stability, not just to the new owner but to the fans, to the players, to the people who work for us in terms of operations and the business side. Going forward, we have these pieces in place. That’s one of the most important things.”

On Hurney’s return: “For me, it was a thrill to have Marty back. He’s the guy who hired me, and he stayed in tuned with who we were as a football team. So having him come back, the transition was simple.”

On parting ways with veterans: “Very hard. Looking at those guys and what they did for us as a part of what we established here, the success we had going to the Super Bowl – we didn’t win it, but those guys were important pieces to that. It’s always difficult, especially with guys that you’ve come to really appreciate and respect as people.”

On possibility of re-signing Star Lotulelei: “Hopefully. We’ll see. Again it’s going to be real interesting to see how things unfold. You never really know what other teams are thinking or what the player is thinking or what the agent is thinking. It will an opportunity when Marty and Rob (Rogers) sit down and meet with Star’s people. We’ll see where they are.”

On replacements for Lotulelei: “I think Vernon (Butler) did a nice job, especially down the stretch with the way he started to grow. But you’d love to be able to keep the pieces in place as far as the D-line is concerned because if you lose a guy, you have to replace him. People say, ‘We may lose him, but we’ll be fine.’ But it’s hard. It’s hard to find the right kind of fit, and we know first and foremost who Star is for us.”

On Hurney and not always being on the same page: “We do disagree on things. A lot of it is open discussion. We will go back and forth; we will hash it out. We’ll take breaks away from the conversations and come back to it. At the end of the day, to be able to vet what both feel and see and believe in, will help. When we walk out of the room, it’s ‘our’ decision.”

On bringing in a veteran receiver: “It would be kind of cool with the background that Jerricho Cotchery had for us in 2015 – a guy who had been there and had that kind of success. I think that helps the young guys. It is a very young room, so it would be nice to have somebody who has that kind of experience.”

On whether slot receiver needs a upgrade: “I don’t know if it’s an upgrade as much as it is development. We’ve got guys who have the ability to do it; it’s just that they’re very young and haven’t done it. First of all it’s about the development of the position with the guys that we have, and then if not it would be the upgrade. We’ll see as we go through free agency.”

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