Sports

Any more Carolina Panthers docu-dramas? Why that’s a hard ‘No!’ for coach Ron Rivera

Old-school Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera and new-school TV docu-drama didn’t mix.

Rivera used the word “invasive” Saturday describing the omnipresence of cameras for the mini-series “All or Nothing” on the Panthers’ 2018 season. While Rivera appreciates the fascination with how the NFL works behind the scenes, he says he’d never again want to grant that much access to practices and meetings.

“There truly were cameras everywhere,” Rivera said of the eight-episode Amazon series NFL films produced. “It does a great job of letting folks see the inside — the behind-the-scenes stuff.”

But for Rivera, after 31 years as an NFL player and coach, the exposure of so many normally private moments went against his grain.

“The old adage used to be ‘What you hear here, see here, stays here.’” Rivera said of the NFL way. “That’s changing.”

Rivera said he hopes his mother never sees the cussing he was captured doing, and his wife, Stephanie, gave him a “Really?’ look after binge-watching the series.

Rivera, who has yet to watch “All or Nothing,” said the cameras made him self-conscious: “There were times when I really couldn’t express myself the way I wanted with the cameras there. And sometimes, I just didn’t care.”

Would Rivera consider doing this again, such as participating in HBO’s “Hard Knocks”?

“No. It’s very hard,” Rivera said. “People tell you, ‘Oh, you won’t even know the cameras are there.’ Well, you do.”

That doesn’t mean the net result was negative: For instance, Rivera said the show picturing then-rookie cornerback Donte Jackson as crusty, “shows he cares.”

And, to Rivera, “All or Nothing” was healthy for the public perception of quarterback Cam Newton.

“I’m glad people got to see behind the scenes about Cam, and got a little better feel for who he is as a young man,” Rivera said.

Newton rest day, sort of

The Panthers had their first practice in pads Saturday, and Newton didn’t throw in team drills. This wasn’t any sort of setback as Newton returns from off-season shoulder surgery, the light day was planned in advance.

“He’s doing really well — no issues,” Rivera said of Newton, who spent part of practice on an adjacent field, doing some drop-backs and light throwing with the Panthers’ staff.

Late in practice, Newton walked over to the knoll next to the practice field where fans sit, to rev up the crowd a bit. There were lots more fans in attendance on the first weekend day of the preseason.

‘Awkward giraffes’

The Panthers’ transition to more 3-4 defensive fronts this season means taking some players out of their comfort zones — prominently, asking defensive ends such as Mario Addison to function more like linebackers, occasionally dropping into pass coverage.

Rivera said the coaches must be patient about that transition, offering a funny analogy:

“When they first start learning how to do it, they kind of look like an awkward giraffe, just standing up at first.. They’re really not sure” what to do, Rivera said. “Then, as they kind of get used to it, you see that cat-like quickness. And then you start comparing these guys to cheetahs.”

Rivera said this shift away from so much reliance on 4-3 fronts was essential because the Panthers defense was predictable to the point of “stagnant.”

“There are enough coaches out there (with other teams) now, who were a part of what we’ve done, that enough people know a little more than I liked,” Rivera said.

CLT_DEFENSE_03.JPG
As the Carolina Panthers continue transitioning to a hybrid defensive scheme, the overall purpose is to create more pressure on opposing quarterbacks and free up the secondary to make plays on the ball. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Injuries

On the third day of practice, the Panthers got back wide receiver Torrey Smith and linebacker Jermaine Carter Jr., who’d been held out of practice as a precaution with knee injuries.

So far, the Panthers have had no serious injuries, a departure from a year ago when offensive tackle Daryl Williams suffered a dislocated knee cap and a torn MCL in one of the first days of camp. Later in the preseason, the Panthers lost offensive tackle Matt Kalil for the season with a right knee injury. Kalil never played again for the Panthers before being waived in March.

Rivera said Saturday he didn’t see any patterns to those injuries that should change how the Panthers approach this preseason.

“They were all fluke things — somebody fell on somebody else,” Rivera said.

“One thing I have tried to emphasize is (players) staying up, staying off the ground, not throwing anybody to the ground (during drills). “You do hold your breath this time of year. Usually, looking at the data that we get, most of the injuries do occur very, very early.”

Roster notes/big plays

Newton wasn’t the only veteran who wasn’t suited up for the first padded practice. Others who were in shorts: defensive linemen Addison and Bruce Irvin, newly acquired center Matt Paradis, tight end Greg Olsen and Williams.

With Newton not throwing in team drills, rookie quarterback Will Grier, the third-round pick out of West Virginia, got most of the snaps with the first-team offense. Grier had some shaky moments in the first two practices, overthrowing some receivers. But he meshed well Saturday, particularly on the long ball with wide receiver Curtis Samuel.

Cornerback Kevon Seymour did intercept one of Grier’s passes for what would have been a pick-6, but that wasn’t due to Grier’s throw — it was wide receiver D.J. Moore slipping and falling on his route.

CLT_DEFENSE_01.JPG
Carolina Panthers cornerback Kevon Seymour (right) intercepted a pass meant for receiver DJ Moore on Saturday, but Moore returned the favor by beating Seymour on the next route. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Rookie pass-rusher Brian Burns got shaken up a bit during a full-contact drill. It looked like he came off the field in need of an ankle re-wrapped.

Defensive tackle Kyle Love came off the field late in practice to get an ice wrap on his left leg.

Rick Bonnell is a sportswriter/columnist for the Charlotte Observer. He has been in Charlotte since 1988, when the NBA arrived, and has covered the Hornets continuously. A former president of the Pro Basketball Writers Association, Bonnell also writes occasionally on the NFL and college sports.
Support my work with a digital subscription
SUBSCRIBE TODAY
  Comments