Carolina Panthers

Panthers players, football staff 'ready for closure' as NFL approves 'a football guy'

Ron Rivera discusses team's new owner, David Tepper

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera talks about meeting David Tepper and thinks he has a good feel for football
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Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera talks about meeting David Tepper and thinks he has a good feel for football

On Tuesday afternoon in Atlanta, the NFL's owners unanimously approved billionaire hedge fund manager David Tepper as the new owner of the Carolina Panthers.

That same morning in Charlotte, Panthers players held their first full organized team activity session of the spring. The focus was on football, working in new faces and installing offensive coordinator Norv Turner's system.

But those who spoke to media after were very aware of the bigger picture: A huge change in the organization's leadership.

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"I'm sure a lot of people are just ready for some closure, just ready for that transition to start, and I guess today is the start of that," veteran tight end Greg Olsen. said "This transition has been inevitable for a little while, since it was announced that the team would be sold.

"I just think for a lot of people in the building, players, (can) just put all of this to rest. Move forward in the new direction that the team is going with."

Founder Jerry Richardson announced his intent to sell the team in December, just hours after a Sports Illustrated report detailing allegations against Richardson of sexual and racial workplace misconduct broke. The NFL launched an investigation into the team, which is ongoing, and Richardson stepped away from day-to-day operations.

The five-month sale process eventually came down to three major bidders: Tepper, Canadian steel magnate Alan Kestenbaum and South Carolina businessman Ben Navarro.

Last week, the news of Tepper's winning bid — a cool $2.275 billion, $2.2 billion of which he'll pay up front in cash — broke. The sale will close in July, and after that Tepper is expected to immerse himself more fully into the daily operations of the organization.

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said he has spoken to Tepper "a few times in passing." Rivera also made a formal presentation about the organization's football operations to each of the bidders.

His impression of Tepper is positive.

"He's got a sense and feel for football," said Rivera. "He's been around it. He owned a small percentage of the Steelers. So he's got a feel. It was good, and I know eventually we'll sit down and talk football and talk about this team. ...

"We really haven't been able to get down to the details yet, but all in due time. I think it'll be really good, he really seemed like a football guy."

This spring, chief operating officer Tina Becker extended Rivera's contract through the 2020 season, and hired then-interim general manager Marty Hurney through 2020 as well. The moves were made in part to promote stability on the football side of the building.

So far, it seems like that is working. As the team installs a new offense and welcomes rookies and free agents, any continuity is a gift.

"Not too much has changed as far as the players and as far as the football stuff is concerned," said Olsen. "Wherever that goes, we'll see."

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue