Rivera's message loud and clear
By Steve Reed
SPARTANBURG, S.C. — About an hour into Wednesday’s practice, Panthers coach Ron Rivera called his players together near midfield and ripped into them for several minutes — sending a message loud enough that everyone nearby could hear.
Rivera isn’t a screamer, so when he does raise his voice players tend to listen.
“He has a way of getting his point across when he wants to,” veteran quarterback Derek Anderson said.
Carolina’s second-year coach was upset with the tempo the players displayed after he allowed them to practice in shorts and shoulder pads instead of full pads.
He was disappointed because in his eyes it “wasted” two periods of practice.
Rivera was much calmer after practice than he was during it.
“I was just making a point,” Rivera said. “I want to make sure people understand the way you have to practice. We’re starting to back off now (on wearing full pads) because we’re starting to look forward to a game time. Our tempo wasn’t very good.”
The Panthers (No. 20 in AP Pro32) open the preseason Saturday night at home against the Houston Texans.
“A lot of opportunities are being passed up by not practicing hard,” Rivera said. “Just because we backed down doesn’t mean we don’t practice hard. I wanted to make a point that it doesn’t matter what (pads) we’re in, we’re competing.”
Linebacker James Anderson said he didn’t believe it was so much a lack of effort as it was the younger players not quite understanding what tempo of practice should be.
He said that made it appear players weren’t trying hard.
Rivera addressed younger players by telling them the Panthers placed 17 players on injured reserve in 2011 — and that many of those replacements were guys who had attended training camp with the Panthers but didn’t make the original 53-man roster.
In other words, even if it looks like you’re going to be cut, keep in mind you never know when an opportunity will arise down the road.
“So you’d better make the best of it,” Rivera said.
He said the tempo did improve after his lecture.
“I was pleased with their effort and the way they came back out,” Rivera said.
Linebacker James Anderson said this wasn’t the first time Rivera dressed down the players, but he said the instances are few and far between since he was hired to replace John Fox in 2011.
James Anderson thought Rivera’s words were well deserved.
“When you practice without full pads you’re able to let your legs rest a little, but your mind can’t,” he said. “You still have to get your mental reps.”
Unlike Rex Ryan, the flamboyant coach of the New York Jets, Rivera didn’t make his team run gassers during practice.
He thinks his message got across.
Rivera believes that because he yells so seldom it has a bigger impact when he does need to make a point.
“Very much so,” Rivera said. “When I do have to say something I try to choose and pick my moments. I trust my coaches to do their jobs and coach and that’s why they’re hired. They do a good job. I think the key for me is when we’re not getting the job done, it falls back on me. It’s my responsibility to make sure we’re doing those things right.”
Rivera has always been an upbeat guy.
When he talks about football, he’s sometimes gets to excited he can barely get the words out all at once. And he goes out of his way to praise players when they do something well.
But he also demands great things of them.
“You pat them on the back when you need to and get hard on them when you have to,” Rivera said.
Tight end Gary Barnidge called Rivera, who played linebacker for the Chicago Bears for nine seasons, a “strong, tough coach” and that personality resonates with players in the locker room.
“That’s what we like about him,” Barnidge said. “He’s very straight-forward and honest with us.”
Follow Steve Reed on Twitter: http://twitter.com/SteveReed—AP
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP—NFL
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