SPARTANBURG One on one with Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera on an outdoor bench still wet from the Spartanburg rain.
Q: Whos the MVP of training camp?
Oh, wow, thats a good question because there are some guys who have come along and really done some good things.
Many of you wont like Riveras answer but others will be thrilled: wide receiver Armanti Edwards.
The great thing for Armanti is he started (playing well) this offseason and then into OTAs and minicamp and he brought it right into training camp. I know hes the underdog and I know theres a lot of people pulling for him but hes earning it. Hes doing the things weve asked him to do and hes shown promise. Now, we get into games and people flying around and hitting you.
Whos his competition?
Q: Rivera says tight end-fullback Richie Brockel.
Richie does so many of the little things for us. He plays tight end, H (back), F (back), fullback. And he does some really good things. Hes an unsung hero. People just dont notice him.
Q: How about on defense?
Mike Mitchell has kind of separated himself from the other strong safety candidates and has done a really nice job. You see a guy like that grow and get better. We saw it on tape; we thought this is what he could become. Hes got the tools. Now (like Edwards) will he do it on game-time?
You look at the whole defensive line. That unit as a whole, theres not a slouch in that bunch. All those guys have an opportunity. We know the obvious ones but even the younger guys, the newer guys (defensive end Louis) Nzegwu, (defensive end Craig) Roh, (defensive tackle Casey) Walker. These are young guys battling for a spot. Theyre long shots but theyre coming and showing progress. If I had to pick a (defensive) MVP I would pick the entire line.
Q: What position worries you most?
The obvious is right guard. We made a move with (the release of veteran) Geoff Hangartner. We see young guys that have the potential, some ability and (we decided to) shake the dice a little bit. Garry Williams, Edmund Kugbila, Hayworth Hicks, we bring in Chris Scott, all guys that show ability but Garry being the one that in the past showed us he could start and finished up last year as a starter. Then you add Jeff Byers to the mix. When youve got a senior veteran sometimes the reps get split too much so we had to make a decision based on what we think this group can become.
Q: What have you seen from your draft picks?
We really believe all five are going to contribute this year. (Defensive tackles) Star (Lotulelei) and KK (Kawann Short) are dynamic and should be together for awhile. You look at what A.J. Klein brings to the mix as far as versatility he can play all three linebacker positions and should be a four-base special teams guy. You look at (running back) Kenjon Barner and his ability, especially coming out of the backfield as a route runner. He does have a lot to learn. The way we do things is a little startling for him coming from the program (Oregon) he was involved in. Edmund Kugbila were banking on to be part of what were trying to accomplish.
Q: Every season more teams stay home for training camp. Do you want to come to Spartanburg?
Its a great community. There are things that go on (away from the public) people dont know about thats innate to who we are as football players and coaches. Theres a camaraderie youre building and its easy to come to a place like Spartanburg, like Wofford, where the people are tremendous.
Q: If Panthers owner Jerry Richardson tells you to make the call, do you come to Spartanburg or stay in Charlotte?
See thats a tough decision because you have everything you need at your fingertips in Charlotte. Here youve got to pack and inevitably you forget something. Itd be a tough decision.
Q: This is your third season as head coach. You know what you have to do to stay. Do you tire of hearing it?
Whats funny is the obvious gets stated every time and I get it. I will always say that Mr. Richardson has been very supportive and hes told me just do your job, just do the best you can, Ron. Hes been tremendous.
Its inevitable people are going to talk about it. Its kind of the new vogue, whos on the hot seat. And I dont think its fair because theres only one person who truly knows and I think sometimes all the talk can kind of influence people. Its hard for me to imagine that Lovie Smith is (fired by Chicago after) going 10-6 and not going to the playoffs when two teams from their division (Green Bay and 10-6 Minnesota) go to the playoffs. Again, they made the decision they thought was best for their football team. Its just hard for me to imagine. Its just unfortunate.
Do I know Im coaching for my job? Absolutely. Every time I step on this football field, every time I step in the office, I know weve got to do the best we can because this is a production based business. It is about winning.
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