Carolina Panthers safety Mike Adams was impressed that David Tepper jetted from Atlanta to Charlotte last week to meet with a group of players a day after being approved as the team’s new owner.
Adams left equally impressed with the message from Tepper, who touched on the NFL’s new national anthem policy but also let players know about his football background and his commitment to winning.
“It went great. Rarely do you see an owner come in and want to rush from the owners meeting and just conversate with the guys,” Adams said Tuesday after the Panthers’ OTA practice. "Just talk about everything, us as a team.
"The one thing I took away from it, the one thing I like about him is he’s got that fire and he wants to win. Not taking away from (Jerry) Richardson, but he’s fired up. He’s happy.”
Tepper, a minority partner with the Pittsburgh Steelers, spent $2.275 billion to buy the Panthers, a record for an NFL team. He visited Charlotte during the sale process, but last week was his first opportunity to sit down with players.
The group included the team’s captains and other veteran players, who shared their thoughts on the new anthem policy that requires players who are on the field to stand or face possible fines.
“That was addressed. We talked about that,” Adams said. “It was an open conversation and that’s going to be an ongoing conversation all year long – with every team. And you know that. Everyone’s going to be all over that.”
Adams, 37, declined to go into detail about Tepper’s stance on the anthem. But Adams said Tepper seemed open to players’ views.
“He let it be known that we have a voice. He understands that we have a voice,” Adams said. “And he understands that he has a voice, too. And he would like to help us with that in different ways.”
Adams said Tepper indicated he could help players with their work in the community and other charitable causes.
Tepper grew up in a middle-class family in Pittsburgh before becoming a hedge fund manager and building a fortune worth more than $11 billion, according to Forbes.
But he also has given a lot of money away.
The business school at his Carnegie Mellon alma mater was renamed in his honor after he gave $55 million to the school in 2004. He donated another $67 million to the school in 2013.
Tepper’s charitable foundation has $190.6 million worth of assets, according to its most recent publicly available IRS filing.
But Adams said Tepper also talked about playing on an all-dirt football field with a bent set of goalposts as a kid in Pittsburgh.
“He gave relatable stories. So we understand where he’s coming from,” Adams said. “We talked about ourselves, and both sides. So we’ve got a nice understanding.”
The Panthers haven’t had many players join the protest movement under Richardson.
Former safety Marcus Ball raised his hand and pointed skyward before a 2016 game, and was cut two days later. Ball, who was mostly a practice squad player with the Panthers, told Sports Illustrated in January he believes his gesture cost him his job.
Veteran defensive end Julius Peppers, one of the franchise’s most iconic figures, stayed in the locker room during the anthem last September following Donald Trump’s controversial comments about NFL players who chose to protest.
Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith sounded off on the new anthem policy Tuesday when meeting with reporters.
Smith was not among the players who met with Tepper last week, but heard the dialogue was good.
“I wasn’t in there, but I heard it was awesome. I heard he’s a great guy. He’s very passionate about winning and the community,” Smith said. “I think whenever you see or hear that it’s a positive sign because for me I always feel you have a responsibility. To whom much is given, much is required. …
“I think it’s awesome that he’s coming in right away and he’s going to embrace the community and keep the main thing the main thing, which is winning.”