SAN JOSE, Calif. — Ron Rivera is a big believer in balance.
That’s why the Carolina Panthers coach is fine with his players’ laid-back, loose demeanor during their Super Bowl 50 preparations.
“For the most part, it’s about asking them to keep their personality. Don’t be more. Don’t be less,” Rivera said Tuesday. “By that, what I mean is, don’t shy away from the opportunities, but at the same time let’s not go beyond that. They’ve been really good about that and there is that fine line.
“ . . . So when it comes time to work, when it comes time to be in meetings, it comes time to be on the practice field — so far, they’ve all done exactly what we’ve asked of them.”
Panthers players credit Rivera for giving them just enough leeway to express themselves, while keeping them focused on the task at hand.
But that didn’t stop former Atlanta Falcons safety Eugene Robinson from delivering his own cautionary tale just days before the Super Bowl. Robinson spoke from the heart on Sunday, before Carolina departed for the Bay Area, about his 1999 arrest the night before the Falcons played the Broncos in Super Bowl XXXIII.
Robinson, now a radio and broadcast analyst for the Panthers, said he told the players it was the “worst night of my life.”
The former three-time Pro Bowl safety was charged with soliciting sex from an undercover police officer, who he thought was a prostitute. During the Super Bowl, Robinson gave up an 80-yard touchdown pass thrown by Broncos quarterback John Elway —coincidentally, the Broncos’ current general manager — in Denver’s 34-19 victory.
Rivera called Robinson “courageous” for sharing his story.
“It was shocking to most,” Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said of hearing Robinson’s speech. “I know a lot of guys didn’t expect that, but for him to have that attitude to open up his life and his story for us, we knew who he was and what he did for the Panthers, it just shows you what type of organization we have.
“A lot of guys wouldn’t necessarily be comfortable with telling everyone their story, but he did and he told us and I think a lot of guys kind of stepped back and understood the value and the importance of staying focused in an environment like this.”