A little over a day after arriving in California, the Carolina Panthers were met by swarms of journalists, puppets, celebrities, superheroes and cheering fans in San Jose’s SAP Center Monday.
That’s Media Night, the frenzy when thousands of reporters question Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers players and coaches about Sunday’s game and off-the-field, more colorful topics.
“I’m an unbelievable chef. I make from scratch, straight outta the box, Lucky Charms,” quarterback Cam Newton told one reporter.
The Panthers assumed the world’s stage again for the first time in 12 years. Monday’s madness, which featured appearances from Miss Universe and from Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, is just a taste of the attention Charlotte’s hometown NFL team will get this week.
Jerseys in the crowd were mostly Broncos orange and San Francisco 49ers red.
The Panthers were away from home, but their personalities, as usual, were still on display: Cornerback Josh Norman debuted in sunglasses, linebacker Luke Kuechly did his best Cam Newton impression with a towel draped over his head, and Newton freestyled his responses.
“We straddle that line between having a good time – coming in letting guys be themselves, keep their personalities – but also realizing this is serious business. There’s work to be done,” tight end Greg Olsen said.
Running back Fozzy Whittaker echoed that, saying that what this team has is special and has helped keep them grounded through the week’s excitement so far. “It’s hard to describe,” he said.
The Panthers took the stage after the Broncos Monday. It was during the first portion of the night that Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said Newton deserves the NFL’s MVP recognition this year.
“He’s played awesome football,” Manning said of quarterback Newton. It’s not easy to lead a team to 17 wins in a season, he added.
Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak echoed Manning’s sentiment about Newton, calling him a “big-time weapon.”