GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 11: Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers throws a pass under pressure from Darnell Dockett #90 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL season opening game at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. The Carindals defeated the Panthers 28-21. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Joe Person has a two part Q&A with Ron Rivera with the first part posting today. The theme in this first one has to be the 'carrot on a stick' analogy which obviously applies to all Panthers. Rivera in particular singles out one player who he hopes focuses on the carrot and doesn't get the attitude that he has arrived:
I guess to me, Brandon LaFell encapsules who we are. And that is, we’ve got to keep the carrot in front of us. We’ve got to keep striving and working to get the carrot. To me, I think that epitomizes who we are. We have not taken the next step. We have not arrived, in any fashion or manner. I think it’s Woody Hayes who said: ‘If you give a man something he hasn’t earned, you’ve lessened who he is.’ And I don’t want that. I don’t want us to think we’ve arrived. I don’t want anybody telling us, oh, you guys are going to the playoffs. No, you’re not. You don’t know who’s going to the playoffs. That’s why you play them. You play 16 games, and you play all 16.
We do know that last training camp LaFell was in the dog house a bit, we guess for dogging it a bit, maybe acting like he had 'arrived' already so to speak. I'm really just guessing with this. I don't know LaFell personally to say whether this is a proper read on the situation but the fact Rivera makes note of LaFell again in this context of not getting a big head seems to imply he not out the woods yet.
One guy he doesn't have to worry about as far as the carrot is QB Cam Newton. Newton continued to work out after the season as if it was not over, all the way through the Super Bowl. His thinking was he needed to train like he is going to the SB. You gotta a love the way he thinks. We know Rivera does:
When the season was over, one of the things he said was he wanted to find a way to make sure he didn’t have one. I think the less we talk about it, the less we get caught up in it, the better. It’s like the Madden curse, he really wanted to be the cover. I think that’s the thing. Instead of running from it, saying, oh, I hope it doesn’t happen – it’s not going to happen. I’m not going to let it happen. I think that’s his approach to the sophomore slump.
If any player is preparing to avoid a sophomore slump its Cam Newton. I'm not even worried about it. It's the rest of the league that better worry.