The Panthers have the league MVP, a former defensive player of the year, talent on either side of the ball, a two-time coach of the year, and a base of personnel that should allow them to be successful for the next few years.
But a guy who parachuted in midseason said he was surprised what he found in a locker room which included more than its share of stars included no drama whatsoever.
During an appearance on the NFL Network, retired defensive end Jared Allen said he was surprised what he saw when he came over in a trade from Chicago.
“I was humbled this last year being on a team that embraced literally ever cliché you could possibly think of,” Allen said, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review. “That place is literally a walking cliché. I got in there and was like, this can’t be real. It’s like a mirage, and no one knows about it? This is cool, . . . There’s zero drama. Zero. I mean, I’ve never been on a team where there’s zero locker room drama at all.”
Allen pointed most of the credit for that toward coach Ron Rivera.
“It’s all because coach Rivera has set this culture that it is a player-run locker room, but that stems from the head coach,” Allen said. “He’s in there, he knows the problems, he’s up to date, nothing’s getting by him. He addresses things honestly — ‘This is the way we operate, but I want you to be yourselves. Be yourselves within our operation.’
“Guys respect that and guys respond to that. And they coach the crap out of you, but in a good way. It’s not overly done.”
Of course, that chemistry changed this week with the release of defensive end Charles Johnson, a team captain and one of the more consistently productive players there the last five years (at least other than this year, when he was injured). Keeping that kind of continuity with a changing roster will be a challenge for Rivera, but he’s shown the last three years that he has a handle on his team.