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.
▪ 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.