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28 December 2016

Transcript: Carolina Panthers Conference Calls with Tampa Bay Media (12/28/16)

HEAD COACH RON RIVERA
 
(On importance of finishing the season with a win)
“It really is, it’s very important because it helps us control the tempo moving forward. That’s the thing you always look to do is just set the tone and tempo.”
 
(On what he believes makes tight end Greg Olsen so consistent)
“I think really just his whole work ethic. First of all, he’s a tremendous athlete and a good football player, but his work ethic; the way he prepares, the way he gets himself ready to go every day. That’s about as important as it gets. It’s a lot of fun to watch him do his thing day in and day out. The biggest thing is he’s a pro’s pro.”
 
(On whether Olsen ever surprises him, having played football as long as he has)
“It is amazing to see a guy do it as long as he’s done, but it doesn’t surprise me because again, like I said, the biggest thing is his work ethic. He puts so much into it. There’s no wonder that he has success or he’s having the type of success that he’s had over the last six seasons with us.”
 
(On what he believes is different about quarterback Cam Newton this year versus last season and how hard it is to follow up a season like they had last year)
“The biggest thing is it’s hard, apparently. Our expectations were higher and when you lose games the way we did, I mean losing to you guys by three. At the end of the day, we had opportunities, we just didn’t finish it up. That’s probably the biggest disappointment. You go back and look at each of those five games that we lost by a field goal or less, they all came down to the last drive for the opponent with the exception of Denver where we missed a kick. But, we had a chance to win. It’s easy to say, ‘What if?’ And truth of the matter is, what if? What if we had win those games? What if we didn’t throw the interception in the end zone against Tampa Bay? There’s a lot more to it than I think meets the eye. I think if people really get a chance to break it down and study it like we’re going to, they are going to see that there’s a lot involved. Truth of the matter is it’s about the injuries and close loses and all of those types of things just kind of piled up. That’s the unfortunate part. We had our opportunities though and at the end of the day, it’s on us.”
 
(On improvement he has seen in quarterback Jameis Winston this season versus last)
“First off, his leadership skills seem to be solid. I think his decision making, you can see it improving game by-game. Every now and then, we’ll catch a game where he had a blip or two on, but when you watch him, his energy it’s up there and it’s infectious and I think his players get caught up in it. Again, probably the biggest thing I’ve noticed is his decision making. It’s quicker, it’s more direct and I do so see him continuing to grow and again, he’s going to be a solid quarterback in this league for a while.”
 
(On whether he believes Winston has become a more accurate passer)
“Oh yeah and again, it’s also about having the weapons around you and as those guys get more and more comfortable with him. I mean, all you have to do is watch [wide receiver] Mike Evans and see how he fights for the ball. I know he’s lost his tight end, [Cameron Brate] but when you get targets that make plays for you, that’s a big difference and makes a big deal. Those guys go after the football, all you have to do is put it in the vicinity and they will make a play for you.”
 
(On cornerback Brent Grimes’ level of play at his age)
“Oh yeah, he is a solid football player. The truth of the matter is, I bet if you watch him, he probably has a tremendous work ethic as well, a lot like Greg Olsen. I bet he comes in early, goes out early to practice, does the things the right way to get himself prepped and ready to roll and then he finishes the day doing the things he’s supposed to help take care of his body. I think what a lot of people need to understand is it’s about the commitment that you make.”
 
(On skills he believes Grimes has to allow him to have such an impact on the field)
“I think he has tremendous anticipation and he plays with great vision. He always seems to have head where it needs to be, whether it’s reading the quarterback or his eyes are on the receiver anticipating the breaks. Again, he’s one of those veteran guys that you do marvel at. Boy, he’s been doing it for a long time at a high level.”
 
(On how linebacker Luke Kuechly has handled not being able to play on the field and how noticeable his absence is on the field)
“I think the biggest thing is, Luke wants to play as a football player, but at the end of the day, there’s some things that I have to take into consideration and think about as we go forward as a team. He’s been cleared from the [concussion] protocol, we talked once he was cleared about going forward and he understands my position and it is noticeable. You’re talking about the guy that’s won Defensive MVP, you’re talking about the guy who has put it all together. So, at the end of the day, you do miss players like that, you miss their presence and that’s the hard thing for us.”
 
QUARTERBACK CAM NEWTON
 
(On whether he is surprised on how consistent tight end Greg Olsen continues to be even as a veteran in the league)
“I’m not surprised. You guys don’t really see his preparation and his outlook on the game. You have to respect that; a person that comes in each and every day with a bright mind open to listening and chipping in his input. It’s no wonder why he’s having the year and the career that he is having.”
 
(On importance of a win this Sunday regardless of them already being eliminated from the playoffs)
“It’s extremely important, especially for our team’s DNA for us to create great habits and going into this [off season] preparing to win late in the season.”
 
(On whether he seems similar pattern with quarterback Jameis Winston progressing in comparison to him during his earlier years)
“Well, I hope not, especially not when I’m in the same division. I respect Jameis and I see so much growth from him. I know he’s going to get better and we better get better while he is getting better as well.”
 
(On how disappointing this season has been)
“Well, you don’t have to sound like that. It’s football, you know what I’m saying. For us, it’s up to us to make those plays happen. We don’t have to keep feeling sorry for ourselves knowing that we expect somebody else to feel sorry for us. As professionals, we have to take full advantage of the opportunity that’s given and if we don’t do that, those things are going to happen. So, we know that and we have to live with the situation and learn from it.”
 
(On the impact surprising Taylor Deckard in the hospital in Atlanta yesterday had on him)
“It was unbelievable for me because me having kids, I know how as a parent, you want your child to be comfortable and I guess that’s what kind of took over. I don’t really know what it was. I was just trying to be there for any type of assistance to make that family comfortable going through these struggling times. We don’t know what the future is going to hold for Taylor and the Deckard family, but I’m praying for a speedy recovery for Taylor and hoping everything goes well.”
 
(On how difficult it was to try to live up to the standards that were set last season)
“It’s not hard at all, just win football games and when you don’t do that, everybody is going to be saying the same things you guys are saying right now. Football is hard sport, but it’s not as hard as people make it out to be. We just have to maximize on our opportunities and I don’t think we did that enough this year. But, that’s the optimism of a whole new year, but not looking ahead. We still have to make sure that we win this football game this week.”
 
(On who he would choose for NFL MVP this year)
“If I had to pick, I would honestly say, even without his injury, [Derek] Carr. For him and his importance to his team, when we played Oakland, it was a different team. When he came back in, he had the impact that he did have. The energy was just as impactful as anybody coming back in the game and what he meant to his team was everything and that’s why I’d vote for him.”
 
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