SPARTANBURG Carolina Panthers first-year general manager Dave Gettleman didnt draft quarterback Cam Newton or hire coach Ron Rivera.
And while Gettleman expressed confidence in both Tuesday, he said its time to start winning.
The Panthers have gone 13-19 and failed to reach the playoffs in the two seasons after Rivera was hired and former general manager Marty Hurney drafted Newton first overall in 2011.
Newton has thrown for more yards than any quarterback in NFL history in his first two seasons, but has yet to lead the Panthers to a winning season.
Cam has had the best two years of any rookie quarterback in NFL history. And everybody talks about the other young (quarterbacks), Gettleman said at the Panthers training camp. What hes done has been completely lost in the sauce because of the elephant in the room the 13-19 record. Im a big believer in letting nature take its course. Things will happen naturally.
Gettleman was asked whether Newton was the quarterback to build around.
After a pregnant, seven-second pause, Gettleman said: Yes, he is. But now its time to win.
Gettleman doesnt have to worry about Newtons future for a while.
Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Panthers cannot begin renegotiating with Newton until after this season. His four-year, $22 million deal includes a club option for a fifth year, and the Panthers could use the franchise tag on Newton.
Technically, you have rights to him for six years, Gettleman said.
Gettleman, 62, the New York Giants longtime pro personnel director, said Newton has a high ceiling.
Hes really physically gifted. Hes gotten better. He keeps improving. What youre looking for is ascension, and he consistently does it, Gettleman said. Hes bright. He lost weight. He works his fanny off. Theres no reason he cant continue to ascend, and I think he will.
Riveras future is less certain if the Panthers again stumble early and miss the playoffs. Hes in the third year of a four-year contract, and had to wait six days in January before owner Jerry Richardson told him he still had a job.
Gettleman said he set no specific expectations for Rivera, other than win.
My goal was to put them in a position to be successful. Thats been my goal all along, Gettleman said. Im giving him all my support and he knows it. We have a very good relationship. Its been fine. And the bottom line is weve given him tools.
Inheriting a roster that was $16 million over the cap when he was hired last winter, Gettleman acquired no big-name free agents. Instead, he cut cornerback Chris Gamble and linebacker James Anderson and restructured the contracts of seven players.
Gettleman said he was up front with the players he approached about restructuring, and believes they appreciated his directness. We didnt arm-wrestle, he said.
Gettleman currently has the Panthers $13 million below the cap. But there is work to do on future caps.
The first item on the agenda was get under the cap when I walked in the door, he said. Next agenda (item) was adding solid pieces to a team that won five out of their last six. Weve done that.
Several of those pieces came in the secondary, which lost its best cover cornerback when Gamble was released. While conceding the secondary remains a work in progress, Gettleman said the newcomers have talent.
We brought in guys that have NFL chops. Drayton Florence is a 10-year vet. He knows how to play the game. D.J. Moore, hes got 10 picks in three years. You look at his participation, youre saying, Whoa. Hes an instinctive football player. He gets his gloves on the ball, he said. Mike Mitchell, for him to have the stats that he had in Oakland with that percentage of playing time, I feel good about those guys.
Gettleman indicated the Panthers were in a holding pattern with two free agents former Carolina offensive lineman Travelle Wharton and safety Quintin Mikell. Gettleman said he wants to give younger players a look at camp before bringing in a veteran.
To that end, the Panthers have implemented a period at the end of practice for third-teamers to scrimmage.
Gettleman touched on a couple of other topics during a 20-minute interview with reporters, including:
• The teams five draft picks: Unfortunately, (guard) Edmund (Kugbila) hasnt practiced much. But the thing Im really pleased about is they all belong in our camp. I feel very confident in saying that.
• Whartons workout: We spoke with Travelle. Hes still working on his rehab. He had a good workout with us. Right now its in limbo.
Panthers linebacker Chase Blackburn, who was in New York with Gettleman, said Gettleman was always around the facility, chatting up players in the lunch room and getting to know them. Blackburn said he thinks Gettlemans transition from the scouting side to his first GM job has been smooth.
Talking to guys, especially the key guys that you have to have a relationship with as a G.M., hes going to demand a lot of things out of us. We understand its a business, Blackburn said.
But hes also a personal guy. Hes going to talk to you about your family and friends, and how the group in the locker room is doing together. I think hes got a good grasp of the situation here, and is going to be a good guy for us.
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