Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman began his 30-minute news conference Tuesday by telling the assembled media he wouldn’t talk about contracts or specific players.
While he stuck to his word on the contracts, Gettleman couldn’t help but talk about specific players. He addressed both current and former Panthers, as well as potential future Panthers in this year’s draft. Gettleman on …
Gettleman called Cam Newton the team’s franchise quarterback and addressed his play in 2014: “We need him to be more consistent, and the players around him need to be more consistent. … He told you himself after Arizona game, he needs to improve his mechanics. It’s a building process. Everybody wants a player to be great yesterday. It doesn’t work that way with anybody, frankly. It takes time.”
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Looking back on his decision to release receiver Steve Smith, who later signed with the Ravens and had a prosperous 2014 season: “I’m thrilled for Steve, and I’m thrilled for us. I think Kelvin (Benjamin), as he learns how to play, he got deep Saturday night and unfortunately it was too close to the back of the end zone. (Philly Brown) definitely gives us the speed we want. No, I don’t regret the decision. I think it was a win-win.”
After Ron Rivera spoke on the team’s lack of speed throughout the season, Gettleman brought it up multiple times, as well. But why did it take so long for the Panthers to recognize they lacked speed? “I don’t think it too long to realize it. I think that, more than anything else … with every guy it’s a process. When you insert rookies in there, it’s going to take time. It’s a proven fact that they’re not going to play as fast until they know what they’re doing. We just felt we’re not going to put a guy out there until we feel he’s ready. We put them out there when they were ready.”
The Panthers have the 25th pick in the draft this year. In the first two rounds of the past two drafts, three of Gettleman’s four picks have been defensive linemen. On this year’s draft class: “What I can say is, we had (scout) meetings back in December, it’s going to be strong at wide receiver again. That’s what it looks like again. It looks like it’ll be strong at offensive tackle again. It looks like there’s going to be depth at defensive end pass rushers. You all know how I feel about pass rushers. It looks like it’s going to be there. … All three spots excite me. It’s a process, and you’ve got to see who’s left.”
Gettleman used the franchise tag on defensive end Greg Hardy last offseason before Hardy was charged for assaulting a former girlfriend. Hardy is due in court Feb. 9 on domestic violence charges. On Hardy’s future with Carolina and how the team handled his situation during the season: “Until his situation changes, there’s nothing to talk about, really. There really isn’t. It’s all hypothetical. … It obviously had an impact. Let me say this to you. Nobody in this room is trained to handle that. Nobody. And that was an incredibly difficult situation. I’ll leave it there.”