In this foreign land of Super Bowl press conferences, Panthers coach Ron Rivera has coached his players to show the media exactly who they are. So have Panthers communications manager Ryan Anderson and director of communications Steven Drummond.
“The league requires us to media train our players and coaches before the season starts,” Drummond said. “In training camp, we do that.” They bring in media professionals to spend a day at training camp going through tips on navigating an interview.
Drummond said, “It’s really a lot of positive reinforcement, do this, do that, think about this, just best practices on how to get your message across on who you are and what you’re about to the fans. We’re not splitting atoms.”
Besides, plenty of the players have been accustomed to the process since their college days.
Panthers rookie linebacker David Mayo said, “I got interviewed at Texas State … Repetition probably makes it easier.”
“Social media has changed a lot too,” Drummond said, “because now, some of these guys have access to 30,000 Panthers fans on their Twitter account and Facebook.” Or more. Cam Newton has 605,000 Twitter followers. Luke Kuechly has 178,000 Twitter followers.
The crash course on how to handle media as football players is pretty broad, according to wide receiver Brenton Bersin, and includes PowerPoints, videos of good interviews and videos of what not to do.
“Derek Anderson, our backup quarterback, he is the cover video of what not to do,” Bersin said. “… Not to throw him under the bus. He laughs about it.”
But Bersin said this week of Super Bowl press conferences hasn’t been too much to handle so far. “It’s casual and it’s football,” he said. “So it’s something you’re comfortable with.”
That explains wide receiver Kevin Norwood’s interview style. “I’m just a laid-back guy,” he said. “To be honest, I don’t care what the outside media world thinks about me. At the same time I want them to know that I’m a God-fearing guy and I love the Lord and I love this game.”
Drummond said the players understand “it’s all about being professional” and that the media “are the conduit to the fans.” Really, he said, the Panthers communications experts are “just giving (the players) tips on how to best communicate their message to our fans.”
I asked tackle Nate Chandler what his message was, who he wanted to be for the fans. “I just try to be myself and then give credit where credit is due,” he said. “Try to be positive, not talk about our game plan.”
Tight end Scott Simonson said, “I try to represent my family and the team … We’ve got a great culture as a team and we stick together through the tough times and the great times.”
“What I want to represent, in order, is God, family and Panthers Nation,” said tight end Ed Dickson.
When it comes down to it, Drummond pointed out, “You can’t prepare 53 guys and however many coaches we have for the Super Bowl. It’s just something you’ve got to experience.”
Only one more day of press conferences to go.
Photos: David T. Foster III/Charlotte Observer; Katie Toussaint