Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper addressed a small group of media members on Tuesday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium, to discuss the team’s 7-9 finish to the 2018 season, plans to evolve the organization on the field and off, quarterback Cam Newton’s shoulder and other important issues.
Here are the key takeaways from the interview:
▪ A practice bubble
Tepper said that the Panthers will have a practice bubble constructed over the turf practice field behind Bank of America Stadium by the beginning of next season.
“There is no fan of Carolina that doesn’t want that bubble. People told me that it doesn’t rain here. That was not true, it rains so frickin’ much here,” he laughed. “We missed so many practices. ... That hurt this team. We have two teams that we play every year that have indoor facilities. We should be preparing indoors and on turf every year. Then we’ve got that crazy rain we’ve had. That hurts you too.
“From a football perspective, you really want to have an indoor option and you’d like to get it as soon as possible.”
There will also be updates to the cafeteria and weight room.
▪ Sticking with head coach Ron Rivera, general manager Marty Hurney
Tepper met with Hurney and Rivera at his offices in New Jersey after the season.
“We had very good meetings,” he said. “We talked about philosophy, coaches and players. I think we’re pretty much all on the same page.”
Tepper said his perception when he first bought the team was that Rivera is a very good defensive coach. That still stands, and Tepper indicated he was confident in the Rivera’s decision to call defensive plays in 2019 as he did for the last three games of the 2018 season.
“I think that’s the way it should be,” he said.
▪ Quarterback Cam Newton’s shoulder
Tepper said he, like everyone who watched the Panthers’ season, saw a big “question mark” when Newton was limited in practices starting in Week 8. Newton sat the final two games of the season with a sore shoulder.
“Obviously as Cam’s shoulder got worse, that made it much harder to win,” he said. “I don’t know what coaches can do about that, to be quite honest.”
Tepper said he “had no idea” whether Newton will need offseason surgery, and declined to comment on the medical staff’s specific plan for Newton’s recovery. He said what he can say is that there are a lot of people “looking to figure out the best course of action.”
“We all want the same thing: To do everything possible to make it better by next yea,” he said. “And hopefully he gets better. ... There’s no certainty in life, and we all hope that.”
Tepper said the team must have “all of its options open” in terms of a contingency plan, but that “we’re hoping it’ll be great.”
▪ Evaluating a 7-9 season
Tepper said he felt his beliefs about the season mirrored much of the media commentary that came out at the conclusion.
“(I believed before the season) the defense was a lot better than it was,” he said. “The offense, listen, the offensive line looked like a disaster. ... You have to give (offensive line coach John) Matsko a lot of credit. ... It was as good as it possibly could be. So it was a good coaching job. But if you look through the season, you look at the strengths and weaknesses.
“We probably should have done some things earlier on defense when it appeared that we had some problems. Some of those problems were probably coach-related problems and changes were made that could have been made earlier. We didn’t make them earlier, so that was that.
“Some of the other issues were, I think, that we might have gotten a little older faster than we thought we were at the beginning of the season — than anybody in this room thought we were. That happens. That’s football.”
“And then when you saw all of the changes that were made, and you saw the result of those changes, and vast improvement in the defense, it gives you hope that you have the right personnel in there.”
▪ Major League Soccer
Tepper said he and team president Tom Glick (who was also in the room) are in ongoing discussions with Major League Soccer about a Charlotte expansion team.
“When the the time comes, we are very much studying that, very focused on it. I personally believe that’s something that belongs in Charlotte,” said Tepper.
▪ Two states, one team
Tepper and a team of people are continuing the process of location-scouting for new practice facilities. He said he has been in contact with state and local governments of both North Carolina and South Carolina during this process.
The Panthers will fulfill their training camp contract at Wofford in Spartanburg, S.C., but Tepper said that “two states, one team” doesn’t mean the team is limited to just Charlotte, or just Spartanburg.
“That doesn’t mean in the future we won’t have some presence, a fan fest ... in Spartanburg,” he said. “Or any other city in North or South Carolina. ... Maybe we should have a fan fest in Raleigh, something new, how about that? Maybe in Columbia, that might be interesting too. All of those options we talked about are on the table in the future.”
▪ Ring of Honor
Tepper confirmed that he will be expanding the Panthers’ Ring of Honor, which currently holds just two members.