Panthers coach Ron Rivera launched into a passionate, 20-minute defense of Cam Newton’s post-Super Bowl news conference Wednesday at the NFL annual meetings, arguing that media and fans who celebrate Newton’s positive energy should be more understanding of his negative emotions as well.
Rivera began his comments with the idea that players from losing Super Bowl teams should not have to talk to the media until two or three days later.
“What we ask players to do after a game like that is tremendously unfair. I really do mean that, too. Personally I’ve always felt that in a situation like that there’s only one person that needs to talk and that’s the head coach,” Rivera said at the NFC coaches breakfast.
“That’s the person you should pull out and you should put in front of everybody and let him handle the situation and answer the questions. If not, that’s what you’re going to get,” Rivera added. “You’re going to get guys that are going to come across in certain ways. And that’s unfortunate. But that’s the truth.”
Newton came under heavy criticism following the Panthers’ 24-10 loss to Denver for showing up at the post-game news conference with a hoodie over his head, answering nearly every question with one- to three-word responses before bolting after 2 1/2 minutes.
Newton was unapologetic two days later, saying he was on record as being a sore loser.
“Believe me, I’m not going to apologize for him and I don’t expect him to apologize,” Rivera said Wednesday. “I think he’s stood up and he’s told everybody, ‘I’m a poor sport. I know it. I wish I wasn’t. But I am.’ I appreciate that. I really do because he’s honest, at least.”
Newton’s abrupt exit came after he overheard Broncos defensive back Chris Harris discussing Denver’s game plan to make Newton beat the Broncos with his arm. Rivera questioned the Super Bowl set-up of having players from both teams in the same area.
But Rivera’s main message for the public to be more tolerant of an emotional player for not handling a Super Bowl loss -- “the peak and pinnacle,” in Rivera’s words -- in a manner it deems appropriate.
“It’s a different type of athlete that we’re dealing with today. These are Millennials. These are young men and women athletes that are being brought up in a different way,” Rivera said.
“I think part of it is these are young people that express themselves. When he’s happy he’ll express himself. When he’s sad he’ll express himself, too. So I just think we need to accept or understand or at least anticipate that we’re not going to get him at his best.”