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Mon., Mar. 30, 2015 12:00 AM to 11:59 PM EDT
Tue., Mar. 31, 2015 12:00 AM to 11:55 AM EDT
Tue., Mar. 31, 2015 11:55 AM to 2:00 PM EDT
Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera Conference Call Transcript
Q: How satisfying has this year been for you, especially with the defense coming together?
RR: Well, you know, it is very satisfying. It’s really about just the culmination of the hard work we’ve put in. We’ve come a long way in the last four and a half seasons; two seasons before I got here and my first two, have been very hard. [They’ve been] hard on a lot of young players. A lot of guys have gone through four tough years and now just the fact that we are winning, we’re playing pretty good and we’re doing things that right way we’ve given ourselves opportunities. It’s very satisfying.
Q: Everybody raves about Luke Kuechly’s instincts and his ability to read plays, but I’m wondering what you see from him from a physicality standpoint at the linebacker position and how you think he has married the two traits together?
RR: Probably the biggest thing and the best thing he has is a great first step, for the most part. He doesn’t take a lot of bad steps and then put himself in bad positions. He plays with his hands pretty doggone well and if there is one thing I like about him, I think he is a good hit-and-wrap tackler. He led the NFL in tackling [last year] and I think for two years he led the NCAA in tackling. It’s something that he does very well and he’s adept at it. A very bright, very smart guy. He handles most of our calls and checks, so he is a complete package and he keeps getting better and better.
Q: Is there anyone you would compare Keuchly to?
RR: You know, he is smart like a Brian Urlacher. He is a physical tackler like Jeremiah Trotter was. He is a combination of several guys that I have coached. I coached a young man named Stephen Cooper [who] played at Maine, from that area up there. Coop was one of the smartest guys that I’ve had and a very good tackler as well. There are just so many guys that he is similar to, but again he has his own personality, his own style.
Q: Are you looking at the game on Monday night as a litmus test?
RR: The one thing that I always try to do is, to me, they are all litmus tests. They are all important because it is our next, most important, game because it is the one we are about to play. That’s kind of been my mantra. I don’t want these guys to get ahead of themselves. I want these guys to understand that we have to take care of business every week, so every week is an important game. You know, heck, our first game was important, our second one was, and this one is important just like last week as well. Is it a litmus test? Yeah, they all are, but again I do agree because of who we are playing. We are playing one of the elites in this league, who just also happens to have one of the elite quarterbacks in this league.
Q: You had to prepare for the Patriots when you were with the San Diego Chargers and the Chicago Bears. What are you seeing from this Patriots team that differs from the previous teams you faced?
RR: Each team has its own personality, has its own way of doing things. The hard thing about this team, watching this team, is that there are a lot of guys that have been hurt or are coming back from being hurt. So, it’s hard to really get a good gauge as to who they are or what they are going to be as we get ready for this football game. The key though is, I believe, that everything starts with the quarterback. Tom Brady is most certainly one of the elites in this league. He does a lot of great things for their offense, so everything we do for us will begin with the quarterback.
Q: Can you take us through Cam Newton’s development this season?
RR: I think the biggest thing really has been his ability to do things and make things happen at the right time for the most part. If there is one thing that he has done also, as well, is he has really controlled the situations. He is managing the games really well. He has limited the takeaways and he has done a great job protecting the football for us. I really love his maturation. I think he has matured very well. He handles and has a great feel for what we want to do and how we want to do it. I just think so much has been said on the negative on who he is. I don’t think people really know who he is as a player. As far as we’re concerned, he has done the things we need him to do to give us a chance to win.
Q: You go way back with [assistant special teams coach] Richard Rodgers, who coached up this way for a number of years. What prompted you to bring him onto your staff and what sort of contributions has he made to the team?
RR: A couple years ago, we were looking for a special teams assistant and Richard had a defensive background, but he was also one of the special teams coordinators, or had been one of the special teams coordinators when he was at college, so it was an opportunity to bring a guy in a give him a chance to learn and learn the NFL style of stuff. He has done a nice job for us. He really has, I am really excited about what he does. Also, because of his defensive background and his background in college dealing with the zone read and playing some of the college style offenses that we’re starting to see, he became a nice resource for our defensive coaches. So, it was kind of a two-fold thing because he understood how people wanted to attack or how people should attack the zone read schemes that you’re starting to see become more and more prevalent in the NFL.
Q: So is he focusing on special teams but also helping you guys out in other areas?
RR: Yes he does. He does focus on special teams and he does help us in other areas. His primary function is right now the special teams, but again, he is still a resource. He is still somebody that we sit down and talk about, ‘Hey, how do you do this?’ ‘What did you guys do against that?’ So, like I said, he is a very good resource for us.