As the fallout from Ron Rivera’s benching of quarterback Cam Newton for a dress code violation reached a fourth day Wednesday, the Carolina Panthers coach sought to end discussions of the so-called Tiegate once and for all.
Rivera began his press conference with another explanation of his decision to sit Newton for the first series of Sunday’s 40-7 loss to the Seahawks after Newton failed to wear a tie for the team’s flight from San Jose, Calif., to Seattle the night before the game.
Rivera spoke adamantly about not treating Newton differently from any other player. He also suggested not disciplining Newton could have resulted in “chaos” for a 4-8 team that was expected to be a Super Bowl contender.
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“I made a decision based on rules,” Rivera said. “I treat everybody the same. The reason you do it, especially when you’re having a tough season, is because chaos can consume your football team.
“The idea was to do the right thing, treat everybody the same. I have done it before where I’ve had to treat people the same, and that’s all I’ve done. That’s the end of it.”
Because the Panthers practiced later than normal Wednesday, Newton had position meetings and was not available to the media. He is expected to meet with reporters Thursday.
Tight end Greg Olsen, one of six team captains, said the idea that Newton’s benching could split the locker room is nonsense.
“I think the splitting of the locker room thing – to be honest with you guys – has been a media-driven storyline,” Olsen said. “There’s been zero quote (or) comment that I’ve seen that’s been anything other than supportive and positive and everyone kind of saying the same thing.
“The idea that has been spit around that there’s a divide and a faction of the locker room is complete and utter nonsense. I think there’s zero legitimacy to it.”
The idea that has been spit around that there’s a divide and a faction of the locker room is complete and utter nonsense. I think there’s zero legitimacy to it.
Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen
After learning Saturday night he wouldn’t start the nationally televised game against Seattle, Newton addressed at least some of his offensive teammates. Tight end Ed Dickson said Newton told the group he wouldn’t break the dress code again.
“I feel it was dealt with pretty good. He addressed it as a quarterback, took ownership in it. From his mouth, it’ll never happen again,” Dickson said. “We move on from that situation and he’s still our leader on offense.”
The Panthers began their preparations for San Diego (5-7) with a two-hour practice Wednesday.
Backup quarterback Derek Anderson, whose cameo appearance vs. Seattle included one pass that was intercepted, said he thought everything was status quo Wednesday.
Anderson wasn’t interested in revisiting Rivera’s decision, other than to reiterate that he supported it.
“It’s not my place to speak about the rules. But I do stand behind him. I think Cam stands behind him,” Anderson said. “We have rules in place for a reason. We all need to abide by them, regardless of what happens.”
Anderson said Newton’s benching would not have been as big a deal if Newton’s series on the bench had not resulted in an interception, which bounced off the hands of fullback Mike Tolbert.
“I think as a whole we all dealt with it and we all moved on,” Anderson said. “I thought we had a great practice. There was a lot of energy. Nothing more you can ask from guys but to come in and work in this situation.”
The Panthers’ situation is this: Three games behind first-place Atlanta and Tampa Bay (7-5) with four to play.
Anderson conceded the playoffs are “fairly out of reach,” adding that “some magic would have to happen for us to get in.”
While the Panthers likely won’t extend their playoff streak to a fourth consecutive season, Rivera’s first two Carolina teams played well down the stretch despite being out of the playoff hunt.
Rivera said he believes his players will continue to compete.
“I feel very fortunate that we have a strong culture inside that locker room. That’s one thing those guys have done. They’ve been able to sustain in tough times. We did it before,” Rivera said.
“I feel really comfortable and confident about that group of men in the locker room. I really do. I think it’s a very sustainable culture. And we’ll see what happens. The proof will be in the way we play.”