By the time Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera held his Friday team meeting, every defensive back had heard what New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes had said about them.
Defensive end Charles Johnson had shown cornerback Captain Munnerlyn on Thursday afternoon. Later that day, free safety Mike Mitchell sent a link to Holmes comments, in which he called the Panthers secondary the weakest link on defense, to the entire defensive backfield.
So in the team meeting, Rivera told his players that the secondary shouldnt be the only unit that was insulted the team should be insulted.
The whole team should take it personal, Mitchell said. I like that coach tries to do things like that. Always making it team, team, team. I think thats very good how he does that for us.
Said Munnerlyn: Coach Rivera said something to the defense about it and like Coach Rivera says, its a team game. If he feels that way, everybody on the field on Sunday, were out there together and were going to play for each other.
Holmes told New York media on Thursday what many observers have said since the preseason, but it still hit home for the Panthers, coming off a 31-13 loss to the Saints in which Drew Brees passed for 313 yards and four touchdowns.
Not to call these guys out, but their secondary is probably the weakest link on their defense, Holmes said.
Holmes has been hampered by injuries this season and has caught 16 passes for 381 yards on one of the worst passing offenses in the NFL. The Jets passing offense ranks 30th in the league with an average of 181 yards per game and will be without receiver Stephen Hill (knee) for the rest of the season after the team placed him on injured reserve Friday.
The Panthers secondary has 12 of the teams 16 interceptions and owns the fifth-best pass defense in the league.
Hes a great receiver. Hes an elite receiver, Munnerlyn said. Its funny to me because we just go out there and play football and let our numbers speak for themselves. Were ranked fifth in the league for a reason.
Everybodys going to talk about the front seven and how well they do and how they put pressure on the quarterback. Hey, thats part of the game. Youve got to have a great defensive line to have good (defensive backs) or great DBs to help you out. Some of the plays they make are because of us, and some of the plays that we make are because of them.
If he feels that way, theres a game thats going to be played at 4:05 on Sunday and well see whats going to happen then.
Rivera was more abbreviated in his response.
People are going to say what they want to say. Thats fine, Rivera said. But thats why you play them on Sunday to find out. Something I learned in all my years of playing, its all about showing up on Sunday and well see how it goes. Thats why you play.
This wasnt the first time a Jets player had called out the Panthers this season. The Panthers gave up 4 1/2 sacks to Buffalo defensive end Mario Williams in the Week 2 loss, and the Bills played the Jets the following week.
Linebacker Antwan Barnes, whos out for the season now and on New Yorks injured reserve list, said there was no chance Williams would have the same success against the Jets.
Its the Panthers were talking about, Barnes told Newsday in September.
Mitchell said he doesnt care about the opinions of outsiders. But he sent the quote to his teammates to make sure they all saw it.
Any time you get bulletin board material, its easy, he said. You grab it, snag it, they have it, our guys saw it and everyones aware of it now.
Mitchell has a history of being outspoken. He said earlier this year NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was targeting him for fines, and last month he called Brees a soft player.
But he was quiet on Friday, saying he was saving his talk for the game.
Absolutely, he said. And loudly.
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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