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Ron Rivera defends Cam Newton’s post-Super Bowl behavior

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera talks

Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera talks to a member of the media at the NFL owners meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., Wednesday, March 23, 2016. Credit: AP / Luis M. Alvarez

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Ron Rivera won’t apologize for Cam Newton’s post-Super Bowl behavior, and he doesn’t think his quarterback should have to either.

The Carolina Panthers coach defended Newton on Wednesday at the NFC coaches breakfast when peppered with questions about the signal-caller’s postgame demeanor after losing to the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50.

“What do you expect? He’s 25,” Rivera said. “Everything he’s ever wanted to be, he had that opportunity and he didn’t get it. And he’s so hurt by it, he’s crushed by it. I mean, he put it all on himself. He took it for 52 other guys and coaches. And that’s a huge burden to bear because everything he wants to be is that winner, that guy that helps us get it. That, to me, is really the way I looked at it.”

In the aftermath of the Panthers’ 24-10 loss to Peyton Manning’s Broncos, a sullen Newton was in no mood to talk. He scowled as he gave clipped answers and after a few minutes, stood up and said, “I’m done, man.”

In the days that followed, it became clear that some of Newton’s irritation had stemmed from the fact that Denver’s postgame interviews were being conducted within earshot of the Panthers.

Rivera said he supports the idea of separating teams during postgame media access. But he also went a step further.

The Panthers coach strongly believes losing teams shouldn’t have to do postgame Super Bowl news conferences when emotions are most raw. The best thing, he said, would be to wait a day or two.

“I’ve mentioned it a couple of times,” Rivera said. “That’s just how I feel. I get it, I understand how important it is for everybody to see this and hear this after the game and get the raw emotion. But we also need to, at least, understand or at least show the appreciation that that’s hard. That’s a difficult thing to get up and do after a loss.”

Rivera hopes football fans and members of the media won’t be so judgmental of players such as Newton, whose reputation again took a hit following his post-Super Bowl display.

“Remember, this is the peak, the pinnacle of what we do,” Rivera said. “We work hard to get there and when you don’t get there, it really truly is disappointing. But I knew I had to get up there. When it comes to these things, that’s what I’m supposed to do, and I know that’s what I need to do.

“I wouldn’t expect them all to handle it like me. I really wouldn’t,” added the 54-year-old coach. “But that’s what I do. These guys play, these guys are on that field for 60 minutes giving everything they could and just the whole disappointment of not being able to do what they wanted to do. That to me spoke more volumes about their desire to win than anything else.”

Reminded that quarterbacks, like head coaches, are held to a different standard than most, Rivera agreed. But only to a point.

“Oh most certainly,” he said. “He’s also in a different place than I am too. I’ve been through all these things, I’ve prepared for them. He’s a quarterback, he prepares to play the game. He doesn’t have to think about those things like I do. And then at the end of the day, after putting it all out on the line, and physically exhausting yourself and emotionally exhausting yourself out on the field, now to have to relive it as quickly as they’re asking these young men to do it, I’m not sure if that’s fair.”

Rivera, who highlighted the fact that Archie Manning came to Newton’s defense after Super Bowl 50, also stressed the importance of acknowledging the generational differences among today’s young athletes.

“These are millennials,” he said. “These are young men and women athletes that are being brought up in a different way and we need to learn to adapt to the way they are. These are young people that express themselves. When he’s happy, he’s going to express himself, when he’s sad he’s going to express himself too.

“So I think we just need to accept, understand or at least anticipate we’re not going to get him at his best.”

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