BOCA RATON, Fla. — Ron Rivera has a suggestion for avoiding the kind of post-Super Bowl meltdown Cam Newton had last month.
Dump player interviews after the game.
Asked at the NFL owners’ meetings Wednesday about the league MVP’s virtually unresponsive manner after the 24-10 loss to Denver, Rivera’s voice grew more and more passionate during a lengthy discourse on the subject.
He said perhaps only the coach of the losing side should meet with the media after the Super Bowl. He doesn’t think players should be asked to relive so soon losing the biggest game of their career, emphasizing several times that his All-Pro quarterback was showing "raw emotion" after a "crushing blow" of a defeat.
"I’ve mentioned it a few times," Rivera said about the postgame setup. "I get it. I understand how important it is to get raw emotion. At least show the appreciation this is hard — it’s a difficult thing to do after a loss. Let’s at least anticipate and expect this will be a tough thing.
"This is not like a run-of-the-mill game. … Remember, this is the pinnacle of what we do; we worked hard to get there, and when you don’t (succeed), it’s a crushing blow."
A two-time NFL Coach of the Year, Rivera appreciated that Newton admitted to being a poor loser, saying, "he told the truth." He added that to expect anything else after coming so close to winning a championship and failing is foolish.
"At least anticipate you will not get him at his best," Rivera said.
Rivera criticized the NFL for placing both winning and losing players at podiums close to each other after the Super Bowl. Newton and other Panthers could hear firsthand the elation of the Broncos and their celebratory comments.
"They shouldn’t put the two teams in the same room," he said. "Maybe a solution is that."
A dejected Newton sat slouching behind the podium, wearing a black Panthers hoodie and a frown. The few answers he provided were mostly with delayed one- and two-word answers. Then he left.
While Rivera wasn’t defending Newton’s actions, he was eager to establish that his star shouldn’t be judged by that performance any more than his on-field career is defined by his poor Super Bowl.
"Let’s celebrate other aspects they have, like showing up at a hospital or a birthday party for a kid with cancer, and you see the kids pop up with excitement," Rivera said, talking not only about Newton, but his teammates. "I’ve been to charity events and seen what a great example he is. People don’t know the guy."
He noted that the Panthers reacted in various ways to the defeat.
"Each guy handled it differently. I wouldn’t expect them to handle it like me," Rivera said. "You didn’t see the way the other guys reacted — Luke (Kuechly) or Ryan Kalil or even Thomas (Davis). Josh Norman stayed out on the field for a long time.
"We have got to accept who these young guys are. They are not 54-year-old men like me who have been to three Super Bowls.
"You are physically and emotionally exhausting yourself, and then you have to relive it? They have a great sense of personal pride, and when they miss out on that opportunity, that’s a huge blow."