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Rivera preparing for the future – his

By Joseph Person
jjones@charlotteobserver.com, jperson@charlotteobserver.com

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Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he is committed to getting a look at the team's younger players, even as he coaches to keep his job.

When general manager Marty Hurney was fired in October, Rivera said owner Jerry Richardson told him he wanted to see the team “trend upward.” The Panthers (3-9) have lost four of six games since Hurney's firing, and are tied with the Eagles for the NFC's worst record.

The Panthers are 9-19 under Rivera, who has two years remaining on his contract after this season.

Rivera said he has had no recent discussions with Richardson, but expects to finish out the season at a minimum.

“It is about winning, don't get me wrong, because I intend to win or try to win every one of these games we play. But at the same time, we've got to be able to do it with these young guys. If we don't play these guys, we'll go into next season with the same questions,” Rivera said.

“People say, 'Oh you're just getting them ready for the next coach.' Well I think I'm getting them ready for me. I could be wrong but I'm not going to worry about that. I'm worried about each game, the next four games, and going forward we'll see what happens.”

The Panthers put veteran defensive tackle Ron Edwards on injured reserve last week, though his dislocated elbow did not require surgery. Second-year defensive tackle Sione Fua started in Edwards' place, and young backups Andre Neblett and Frank Kearse also saw action there.

Rookie safety D.J. Campbell, the team's seventh-round pick, saw his first action Sunday in a 27-21 loss at Kansas City after Sherrod Martin injured his knee. With Martin headed to injured reserve with MCL/ACL damage, Campbell could get more playing time, Rivera said.

Rivera had no updates on the status of running back Jonathan Stewart, who missed the Chiefs' game with a high ankle sprain, or wideout Brandon LaFell, who injured his foot in the second half against Kansas City.

Rivera said LaFell is having an MRI exam Monday.

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