What a difference a (bye) week makes.
A week after Ron Rivera fielded, and sometimes deflected, questions about his job status, a more relaxed Carolina Panthers coach spoke to the media for nearly 20 minutes Wednesday before the team broke for the bye week.
The Panthers won’t practice again until Monday, coming off an early bye week they share with the Green Bay Packers.
“Stephanie (Rivera’s wife) and I are going to hang around,” Rivera said. “We’re checking the local calendars to see what’s going on. We’re going to flop around the city and enjoy it.”
Several players in the locker room said they’ll stay in Charlotte for the bye. Rivera’s daughter, Courtney, plays softball at UCLA, and the team begins fall ball next week. Rivera said it will be the first time since becoming the head coach that he won’t visit Los Angeles on the bye week.
One player who is pleased with the bye week is defensive tackle Dwan Edwards. He’s been dealing with a hamstring injury since the preseason and said he was in much need of the bye.
“Hopefully knock most of it out so I’m not going week to week,” Edwards said. “It was nice to be able to sit one out and be able to get a good win and have the bye to get right.”
Kugbila surgery: Fourth-round draft pick Edmund Kugbila had knee surgery this week and is expected to be ready for next season.
Kugbila injured his knee at rookie minicamp and sat out most of organized team activities and training camp. The Panthers put the offensive guard on injured reserve in the preseason after he attempted to come back to practice but suffered setbacks each time.
“We could have rehabbed him and put him on the eight-week IR, come back but the doctors were a little bit concerned,” Rivera said. “This was something that was decided in the best interest of the young man’s career and this football team.”
Oliver death: Former Charger Paul Oliver died Wednesday morning at age 29, and news of his reported suicide affected Rivera.
Rivera was the defensive coordinator in San Diego in 2008-10 before becoming the Panthers’ head coach. Oliver played safety for the Chargers in 2008-11 and started in 12 games.
“It’s surprising, disappointing and sad,” Rivera said. “He was a heck of a young man. He was great for us in San Diego. He was a guy that you could count on, who came through in a big way. A fun-loving kid. It’s hard to imagine and it takes your breath away because he was such a good young person to be around.
“I’m saddened by it. I know he’s got some teammates in the locker room that it really hit. (Secondary coach Steve) Wilks was with him as well. It’s like those people say, it’s hard to believe it was him. God bless his family and hopefully they can make it through this tough time.”
Helmet clip: Teams can continue to use the Under Armour visor clips, as long as the Under Armour logo is covered.
According to ProFootballTalk.com, the logo must be fully concealed if teams wish to use the visor clip.
The NFL has an apparel deal with Nike, but several players around the league, including Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, have worn the clips. A Panthers source said the equipment staff prefers the Under Armour clip because it’s easier to manage.
The league announces fines on Friday, and there was no indication Wednesday if players would be fined.
Johnson contract: Defensive end Charles Johnson is the highest-paid Panther on the roster, and when the team approached him about restructuring his contract, he obliged.
“They just asked me would I do it,” Johnson said. “That’s fine. It was no win or loss.”
The move created $4.26million in cap space for Carolina, but Johnson did not lose any money. Carolina converted about $6million in salary into a signing bonus, dropping his season salary to $715,000. His cap number dropped from $13million to $8.4million.
Johnson signed the most lucrative deal in team history in 2011 when he received a six-year, $76million extension.
Staff writer Joseph Person contributed.
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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