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Sorensen: Carolina coach Rivera down-to-Earth, and with new contract here to stay

I wrote Monday the Carolina Panthers would extend Ron Rivera’s contract. I wrote this not because I can see the future but because Carolina had no choice. On Tuesday the Panthers extended Rivera’s contract three seasons.

Rivera has won six, seven and 12 games as Carolina’s coach. He’s grown, and the team has grown with him. He’s honest, he’s candid and he’s a leader.

He’s also one of the most courteous and respectful people I know. There are coaches at every level who think they’re a big deal because they have a whistle and know how to use it.

I’ve seen Rivera on the sidelines, in group and one-on-one interviews and at a charity golf tournament. He knows his job is important to a lot of people. But not for a moment does he act as if he’s important because of it.

The Panthers simmered in 2011 and ’12, and this season they figured out who they were. They’re an interesting combination of young and old, loud and quiet. They have leaders in the locker room and assistant coaches who someday will have their own head-coaching contracts extended.

The Panthers are, or appear to be, on the verge of putting together a winning program. And who would you want to lead them other than Rivera (if you say Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher or another celebrity coach then: (a) You’re not allowed to read further and; (b) You have to move out of your mom’s house).

Next season Rivera will move into a tie with Dom Capers as the second-longest tenured coach in Carolina history.

In 2015 he will break the tie.