What we learned from Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who spoke to the media on Thursday at the NFL Scouting Combine:
▪ Rivera said there has been no decision about whether to continue playing in 2018 from veteran defensive end and sure-fire Hall of Famer Julius Peppers, who tied for the team lead in sacks in 2017. Rivera said, though, that decision is coming “sooner rather than later.”
▪ Rivera: Biggest thing that Cam Newton got from meeting with Norv Turner is that “Norv isn’t here to change him. He’s here to help him.”
▪ Graham Gano contract is high on the free agent priority list, Rivera said, but he deferred to general manager Marty Hurney for further comment.
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▪ Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s knee injury did not require surgery.
▪ Linebacker Luke Kuechly is rehabbing from shoulder surgery, and the team will err on the side of caution with his timeline.
▪ There is not a timeline for second-year receiver Curtis Samuel’s recovery from a serious ankle injury.
▪ As the premium on backup quarterbacks went up last season, Rivera says the team is evaluating closely the group of viable backups this week and discussing whether they will bring long-time backup Derek Anderson back.
▪ At the scouting combine, Rivera says he’s specifically looking for incoming rookies who could start immediately.
▪ Rivera says he and general manager Marty Hurney are deciding whether Devin Funchess will be the team’s No. 1 receiver or No. 2 receiver, and will build complementary corps around that decision.
▪ Rivera said he’d like to see a veteran presence in the receivers room – and obviously that would have to come in free agency.
▪ Rivera said replacing veteran power back Jonathan Stewart, who was released Wednesday, with an identical back isn’t so much a priority as getting a dynamic back who can run inside and outside. Rivera also mentioned new offensive coordinator Norv Turner’s success with NFL Hall of Famer LaDanian Tomlinson.
▪ It’s “going to be tough” to keep free agent guard Andrew Norwell, Rivera said, because of the salary the former undrafted free agent will command. Rivera said second-year lineman Taylor Moton can play both guard and tackle.
▪ At the scouting combine with former Panthers coordinators Sean McDermott and Steve Wilkes, Rivera said it’s “kinda cool” to see his coaching tree grow.
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Ron Rivera, head coach of the Carolina Panthers, talks earlier this week about how new coaches could help Cam Newton's game. (The Carolina Panthers will hire Norv Turner as offensive coordinator and Scott Turner as quarterbacks, a source told the Observer on Thursday evening.) John D. Simmonsjsimmons@charlotteobserver.com