Spartanburg, SC – July 26: Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera has not shied away from Ryan Kalil’s public promise of a Super Bowl victory this season. In fact, he has embraced it!
Kalil, the Panthers’ Pro Bowl center, took out a full-page ad in Wednesday’s Charlotte Observer telling fans their loyalty would be rewarded with a championship.
In past years, former Panthers coach John Fox (now with Denver) would have cringed at this. Rivera, however, loves it.
“If we don’t have 53 guys with that same attitude walking in that building, we’ve got to find 53 guys that do,” he said. “And what he did, he put how he feels out there. I think that’s great!”
Kalil’s teammates also felt that same way. Linebacker Jon Beason said the Super Bowl has been a team goal since February.
“That’s the first part of it – confidence. You’ve got to believe in the goal. First you set the goal, and then what you do day-to-day to work for it is what makes it come true,” the Panthers’ defensive captain stated.
All players will have been checked into camp by tomorrow morning and I will be attending the first official practices (Saturday and Sunday) at Wofford College, and do not expect any more statements about this. Once is enough…everyone understands how Coach Rivera, Kalil and Beason feel. Every team has the same goal in July…get to the Super Bowl in February. Between now and then, injuries will happen. Teams we expect to compete will not. There will be sleeper teams that catch fire and will be in the playoffs.
The Panthers will NOT be a surprise team this season. Led by quarterback Cam Newton, everyone has high expectations for the team this year. Maybe a bit TOO high. But I am very glad to see the optimism for wanting to get to the championship game rather than saying they just want to improve upon last year’s record.
Now, the target on their back has been intensified. Defensive end Charles Johnson said, “People are going to be out to get us, just like we’re out to get everybody else. We’re hungry just like everybody else. We haven’t won nothing, really. So we’re trying to get everything we can.
“A lot of things have to come together for us to win a Super Bowl,” Johnson pointed out. “A lot of stuff has to happen. Everything has to be on point. Defense has to be on point, offense has to be on point. We need a big boost from special teams. Other than that, I’m all with it.”
And I think every player entering Gibbs Stadium Saturday evening will be “all with it” as well…or they will soon find themselves on the outside looking in.
Local fans can celebrate the start of training camp Saturday afternoon at Gibbs Stadium Plaza from 4:30-6:30 p.m. and following the Panthers’ practice from 8:30-9:30 p.m.. Festivities include live entertainment from the band Back Nine, performances by the TopCats, Sir Purr and Purrcussion, face painting, food, giveaways and more. Admission is free.