Far from being upset with Ryan Kalils public promise of a Super Bowl victory this season, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he hopes all of his players are focused on that same goal.
Kalil, the Panthers Pro Bowl center, took out a full-page ad in Wednesdays Observer telling fans their loyalty would be rewarded with a championship.
Rivera didnt flinch when asked about it after the teams final rookie camp practice.
If we dont have 53 guys with that same attitude walking in that building, weve got to find 53 guys that do, Rivera said. And what he did, he put how he feels out there. I think thats great.
Kalils teammates felt the same way.
Linebacker Jon Beason, a defensive captain, reminded reporters that hes been talking about the Super Bowl as a goal for this team since February.
Thats the first part of it confidence. Youve got to believe in the goal, Beason said. First you set the goal, and then what you do day to day to work for it is what makes it come true.
Beason tweeted a picture of Kalils 178-word message to his followers Wednesday morning.
Defensive end Charles Johnson hadnt seen or heard of the ad until a reporter mentioned it to him after practice.
He put that in an ad? Johnson asked. I cant disagree with him. I agree with him. People dont say it publicly, but I agree with him. I dont have any disbelief. Its all good with me.
Kalil called his gesture a war cry for the fans for their support through the franchises first 17 seasons. The idea came to him two weeks ago in California, and he wrote and paid for the ad without consulting the Panthers.
Rivera said Kalil put in writing what every team is thinking as training camps open.
Everybody else believes the same thing. He just said it, Rivera said.
Rivera, who played nine seasons with the Chicago Bears, said former Bears coach Mike Ditka greeted players at Riveras first minicamp by telling them he had good news and bad news.
The good news is were going to the Super Bowl, Rivera recalled Ditka saying. The bad news is some of you arent going.
Rivera said he wants his players to aim high.
If you dont ... then what are we playing for? Rivera said. I dont want to hear anybody say, Heck, are you kidding, Ill be happy (with) 8-8. No. As (former NFL coach) Herm Edwards says, You play to win the game.
Other NFL coaches and players who have made bold predictions recently have not fared so well. New York Jets coach Rex Ryan said he regrets guaranteeing his team would win the Super Bowl last season.
And when Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick said last week the Eagles had a chance to become a dynasty like the 49ers in the 1980s and the Cowboys in the 1990s, critics pointed to the comments of one of Vicks teammates last season.
After backup quarterback Vince Young called the Eagles a Dream Team, they lost four of their first five games and missed the playoffs.
But Johnson is not concerned about Kalils prediction putting a target on the Panthers.
We already have a target on our back. Its not like weve not been out there. People are going to be out to get us, just like were out to get everybody else, Johnson said. Were hungry just like everybody else. We havent won nothing, really. So were trying to get everything we can.
Added Beason: Pressures great. I love pressure. A lot of times, youre doing what youre doing, you kind of get comfortable because you get into a routine. As soon as I get challenged with something or its time to do something new, I like that. So pressure is an opportunity to do something great.
The Panthers finished 6-10 in Riveras first season, with a top-10 offense led by Rookie-of-the-Year quarterback Cam Newton and an injury-plagued defense that was among the leagues worst.
Johnson said the Panthers have the potential to end the season in New Orleans, site of Super Bowl XLVII.
Weve got everything we need I think to win it. Its all about us, Johnson said.
A lot of things have to come together for us to win a Super Bowl. A lot of stuff has to happen. Everything has to be on point. Defense has to be on point, offense has to be on point. We need a big boost from special teams. Other than that, Im all with it.