On Wednesday, Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera and quarterback Cam Newton spoke to the Washington, D.C., media about their upcoming matchup against the Redskins.
Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera* *
On the development of QB Kirk Cousins:
"The basic thing you see from watching Kirk Cousins is, you know – and again I'm going off initially when we play them and then watching him throughout the rest of the year – is that the young man has gotten better and better. He's got a tremendous amount of confidence and I thought he finished last year on a strong note for the team. Watching him this year, he's in that same mode. I see him building his confidence. I see him making good decisions, delivers a good ball, has got the ability to make most throws, you know? He's a very headsy guy.
I think he has got great command of Coach [Jay] Gruden's offense and I really do, I see why they like who he is. I mean, he really is a…He's a playoff-caliber quarterback who's still a young player, too. Let's be honest about that. It's not like he's been in the league seven or eight years. I mean, this is a young man that is developing and growing."
On if the notion that Cousins has earned a long-term contract is 'frivolous':
"No, I think it is a possibility. I don't want to speak for them on what they should do with their quarterback, but I do think he is growing and he's going to be a solid football player in this league. And as I said, he seems to be more and more comfortable in Coach Gruden's offense and, you know, again, if he gets in the playoffs, it's going to be up to them to make their own decision on what they want to do but I think Kirk Cousins is a solid football player in this league."
On what he remembers most about CB Josh Norman as a rookie and throughout his tenure in Carolina:
"First of all, Josh is a good person. He has got a terrific heart, he really is. Secondly, he has always been flamboyant. Third, he is stubborn, hard-headed, but he listens, he learned and he grew and you saw his development. He's become, you know, for what we felt for us was 'that guy.' And, again, things happen and unfortunately he is not here, but he is solid football player and as I said a much better person."
On handling Norman's stubbornness and what he learned about Norman during those experiences:
"How tough and resilient he is. I mean, it was tough. He was a starter then we benched him. Then he became a starter again, then we benched him again. But each time he came back, he practiced harder, he stayed longer after practice doing the little detail things and as a coach you take notice. You take notice that a guy is willing to do the extra things to improve his game and that's why Josh Norman is who he is. He did the extra things. He studies his opponent, he practiced extra, he got other guys to stay after with him, which shows to some of his leadership qualities. But again, he is a personality. He is his own guy."
On the positive takeaways from this season:
"Well, we're learning about our young guys. You know, we've got a lot of young guys that have had to play this year, especially at the cornerback position and they're getting playing time. That's probably the most valuable thing you can give a young player is the opportunity to get on the football field and develop. Hopefully as we continue to go forward we can do some good things, win some football games and continue the development of our football team."
On if he has to prepare his players for an emotional reunion with Norman:
"We don't have to worry about that. I think the guys know what to expect from Josh. That's the beauty of it [laughter]. No, because that's who he is. He was like that in practice. That's one thing about Josh, too, he practiced like he played. Those interceptions he made for us last year, he made in practice, so it was no surprise when he made those interceptions. The one he made against New Orleans last year, he made that in practice. The one he made against Jacksonville, he made that in practice. You go back and you look at all of those things that he does – those are things that he practices. Those long arms of his come into play and he used them in practice and so you had confidence that he was going to make things happen."
On if Norman's spirit helped the level of play of other players on the team:
"Well, first of all, the way he practiced, it raised the level of guys around him – whether he was competing against our offensive guys or if it was the defensive guys that he was working with. And then he brought a swagger to us as well. There was a cockiness that kind of spread – the way the defensive backs handled themselves. When you have a guy like that, that has his own style and his type of own style in terms of bringing energy, guys feed off of that and that's what happened. Again, in a lot of ways, he has an infectious quality to who he is in terms of his style of play."
On what he did to contain Norman's emotions in Carolina:
"Well, I don't think 'containing' is a fair word. I think what you do with Josh – what I did with Josh – is I talked to him personally on a man-to-man level. That's what I talk about when I say that he's a good person. Josh understands where I was coming from and we had great conversations about that. I always told him that I appreciated the way he handled things for the most part. He's one of those guys that really, to me, you treat him like a man, you talk to him man-to-man, and he understands and he gets it. He's one of those kind of guys. He's always looking for a mentor. He's always looking for someone to talk with – whether it was with myself, the position coach, the coordinator, a teammate that he leaned on, or our owner. Josh reached out because he's one of those kind of guys that loves information. He wants to know."
On what he would like to duplicate from last year's game against Washington:
"Win [laughter]. When you look at them, there's a lot more to who they are now because they're a year more into their system. Coach Gruden I think has got a terrific-style of offense. They do some really good things. He has got a lot of weapons on there, also. When you look at the receiver position with [DeSean] Jackson and [Pierre] Garçon, you most certainly have got to be aware of them. Those guys are dangerous. Then you have got Jamison Crowder, who comes in in situational football for them and makes things happen. He's a special teams guy. I like the tight end position. I think they're loaded with [Jordan] Reed and [Vernon] Davis and [Derek] Carrier is not a bad tight end at all either. They have got three quality guys for them that make things happen. Then I think their running attack is solid. It's led by Robert Kelley – he's a good football player. But, again, to me it all starts with Kirk Cousins, and he's done a nice job. Again, to me, that group has really come along. You see their offensive line playing better and better and better and better. This is one of those things where the more consistency you have at a position – especially at offensive line – the better they're going to be. You look at what they're doing on defense and I think Joe Barry and his coaches do a nice job. It's out of the 3-4 style of defense and they've got playmakers. That's a thing we have got to be aware of."
On the most difficult part of this season given the high expectations following a Super Bowl appearance:
"First of all, trying to live up to those expectations. They were very high, and I agree, mine were very high as well. Disappointed obviously we're in the situation that we're in right now where every game that we play counts and there is no room for error and we have got to rely on certain other things happening. That's tough. That's difficult to fathom right now, especially in light of the season we're coming off. Then, having to deal with the different injuries we've had this year and shuffling our team around a little bit – that's been the hard part more so than anything else. I think I have a good group of guys. I think there's a good culture in the locker room. These guys are going to come out, they're going to play hard, and they're going to play to win. That's what we're working towards."
Carolina Panthers QB Cam Newton
On his competitiveness with Redskins CB Josh Norman:
"Well, you know, Josh is a person that's been around this organization for four years, and that's a long time in
this league. We've had some candid events where competition may have took a turn for the best and for the worst. But, one thing about it, me and Josh are and will remain friends outside of football. That's what you have to love about him."
On times when the competition ended up for the best:
"Well, we became close friends. I respect his game. I can't really speak for him, but to see where he's come from – coming from a relatively smaller school – and having that chip on his shoulder since day one… His approach and his mentality is consistent, and that's what you have to respect."
On the 5-on-5 games that happen between Norman's brothers and Newton's cousins:
"[Laughter] Listen here, man, at the end of the day, I feel as if it's a pending season. It's not over yet. Body composition is very important when we're talking about playing against 'DB-like' players, and you have got another offensive line-like team with a God-type figure, but I can only do but so much. I have got other guys… But, any-who, like I say, I respect Josh and I know him and his family off the field. This is a relationship that will go further than football."
On other games he played against Norman:
"[Laughter] Damn, you know everything about the whole doggone team [laughter]."
On who is involved on his side of the 5-on-5 games:
"We just go out and just have fun. Really it's just like a cardio session. It's funny to hear him and his brothers interact because all if them have got nicknames for each other. They don't call each other by their real names. They call themselves 'Fat' and 'Back Fat,' 'Chubby', 'Boobie' – you don't know who is talking to who. They've got code names for their plays, they're running plays in basketball, they're asking for subs in a 5-on-5 game [laughter], I can't handle it, man. We just do recreational, pickup games of basketball. They have got team jerseys and stuff [laughter]."
On if he plays with his cousins:
"No, we've played a multitude of games. Norman-Newton games, it's probably been once or twice. We try to disperse it as equal as possible. Josh takes more of a 'family-matic' – if that's even a word – approach. He chooses the players that he's more familiar with. I feel as if I can win with anybody with my God-like skills and me being a team player, put the whole team on my back like LeBron [James] at any given moment. So it is what it is."
On what the talk is like in the games:
"Let's just say it's not something that your mama would like to hear [laughter]."
On Norman's worst sport:
"I don't know, man. See, if you ask Josh that, Josh is probably going to tell you that he doesn't have a sport that he isn't good at. I don't know, man. Let's just say a spelling bee [laughter]."
On when the relationship with Norman developed into what it is now:
"I can't really pinpoint it, I just know it was only a certain amount of people while Josh was on the team he felt comfortable with in talking to. As a person of him who grew up idolizing and respecting the NFL and when he got here, he just took full advantage of his opportunity. And him going to Washington was no different. You have to respect the man for being able to take care of his household and that's what he's done. And for me knowing him off the field makes me even love this game even more because I have long-lasting relationships that this game has [given] me and I will cherish for the rest of my life."
On people not knowing the relationship between him and Norman:
"The thing that people don't realize is, when you talk about great teams, when you talk about great players, they challenge each other. For them, for everyone to realize… I'm pretty sure Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen got into it; obviously Shaq and Kobe. LeBron probably got into it with a lot of his players; Peyton, Tom and those guys. Mine was just the only time where social media was really blasting at the time and one little picture just took over. But before practice even ended, we had already made up and I told him if it takes me doing that, I'll do it again for me to get the best out of him, And I would expect nothing less for him to do the same for me. And he went out there and had an All-Pro season."
On his reaction when he found out that Norman was no longer on the team:
"Obviously, I'm not going to cry over spilled milk. Josh is there now and there's no need for me to talk about something that I have no control over."
On what he remembers about the team's performance in its last matchup with the Redskins:
"Well, it was a result of great execution and an unbelievable week. I remember very vivid that week we had a great week of practice. A couple of guys were being challenged, not only from peers but from coaches and they stepped up to the plate and made big plays in that game."
On his performance in the last matchup with the Redskins:
"Well, just for me, as a quarterback, sometimes you get over-praised and sometimes you get overly beat-up. Because when a team succeeds, the quarterback typically gets all the praise, and when a team doesn't succeed, the bulk of the blow goes to the quarterback. So I just had the results of being on a great team with unbelievable defense and guys just around taking turns making plays."
On what he's learned about praise and criticism this season:
"I wouldn't say I learned anything more so than just appreciating the whole process."
On if he had any input in trying to keep Norman in Carolina:
"I just stay in my lane."
On if he has become used to the scrutiny:
"I don't call it scrutiny. I call it appealing the people."