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Carolina's Ron Rivera and Brandon LaFell Preview Season Finale vs Saints

Posted Dec 26, 2012

Ron Rivera

Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera
Conference Call With New Orleans Media
Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Listen to Rivera's Call

Do you think that people sort of take Drew Brees and his numbers for granted because people are used to the numbers and what do you think of his performance this season?
“I do agree with you. We do expect him to have those kinds of numbers. The thing that you see is as his guys get healthier and healthier…I know his guys have been nicked up for the most part of the season, he hasn’t had his weapons healthy all the time…Now you’re starting to see it and see that offense click. It’s really becoming a typical Saints offense again. You have to be able to account for not only what Drew does, but the weapons he has.”

Is it unfair that everybody looks at him that way?
“It almost is, but again, Drew’s a product of his own success too. Let’s be honest about that. The guy’s had a terrific career. Ever since getting to the Saints, it’s been getting better and better and the expectations get a little bit out of touch sometimes. People think he’s going to do it all the time. It is hard, because people are really trying to study and learn what the Saints are doing and as people understand a little bit more each year, it’s going to be harder. It’s harder and harder and it’s tough, but Drew really is one of the better ones and is most certainly a class act.”

Have you guys heard from the league office regarding Cam Newton’s actions in Oakland and what are you guys anticipating possibly might happen?
“Honestly we haven’t heard and we’ll react to what’s going on. In light of what happened in the game and all that stuff, I’m just going to react to what they say.”

What did you tell Cam after the incident as your quarterback?
“I just told him he has to be careful. I have an opinion on what I thought happened. I thought he reacted like a lot of other people would have reacted feeling and seeing what I saw, so I’m not going to really get into it. I told him he has to be careful. That’s all.”

How is your team playing right now as the season winds down despite the overall record?
“I think we’re playing better. We figured some things out and are doing some things differently and better.The hardest thing we’ve had to struggle through most is our offensive line. As that group has kind of solidified, we’ve played better. The hard part now is obviously we have a couple more injuries there and trying to patchwork that. Hopefully our guys can step up and we can make some plays.”

Do you think you need to get an endorsement from your owner to help your job security or do you just play out the games and is it evaluated afterwards?
“That’s pretty much it. We control what we can. This week we’re playing the Saints and then after that we’ll just go forward and see what happens. That’s kind of been my approach. It’s crazy because you kind of wonder where it all came from and it never came from him and that’s the thing. I’m on the hot seat. At no point was I ever told that. I’m going to go through it and see what happens and as I’ve always said, it’s about getting our players ready to play on Sunday. We have the Saints and have to go to New Orleans and play them there. It’s going to be a tough football game.”

When you talk about this season finale, the average fan might say with two non-playoff teams it’s anticlimactic. On the other hand, it’s two teams that have won the majority of their recent games and could be hitting their stride in getting momentum for next season and could be a very good football game. How do you see the importance of this game for each team?
“Exactly that. It’s a momentum game. You look to play well and look to win. The obvious reason is why, because it’s just not about this season. It’s about what’s going forward. It’s about the future. It’s about getting ready for next season. That’s really kind of been out approach. Everything we’re doing is building for the next opportunity. That is obviously next year after this Sunday. We want to make sure we play well and give ourselves that opportunity and we could ride that wave moving forward.”

Pro Bowl voting is tonight, do you say that with Marques Colston having never been voted to one that you don’t have to worry about him?
“Never. With the talent that’s on this football team, you would never say that. You would never say that about a Darren Sproles. You would never say that about a Pierre Thomas, or a Mark Ingram, Chris Ivory type of football player. Those guys are good football players. Marques Colston is a good football player, as is Lance Moore, Devery Henderson. You start talking about guys, the thing about the Pro Bowl is the voting’s different. (It’s) not necessarily about who the best player is either sometimes and sometimes it’s a little bit of both (popularity and production). It’s a little about reputation. When you talk about the Saints and who they have, there’s a group of football players that are maybe overlooked and unfairly overlooked, especially in light of the success that they’ve had. Drew Brees has had a tremendous amount of success. I bet if you asked him why did he have the success, he wouldn’t say it’s about him. He would say it’s about the offensive line and the playmakers making plays for him.”

Marques is becoming one of the greatest receivers in Saints history and has never been to a Pro Bowl. Why is that?
“I guess it’s about flashy numbers and all that stuff, which I think is disappointing, because you’re talking about a guy that was on the Super Bowl Championship team. You’d like to think that somewhere along the line, he would be recognized for what he does.”

The Saints seem to have found their niche under Coach Spagnuolo since game 2. Would you give an assessment?
“I’ll tell you what it looks like right now, they look like they are hitting on almost all cylinders. There are still some things they have to learn. The system that coach Spags uses is pretty much the one that I grew up in when we were both in Philadelphia under Jim Johnson and if you expect it to show up the first day, it’s not going to happen. It takes time. Once these guys learn it and learn to communicate within it, it’s going to get better and better. That’s what you’re starting to see. What they did to Tampa Bay was pretty impressive. I’ll tell you that right now. And then last week, fighting with Dallas, that was a fistfight and a heck of a football game. Both teams had explosive offenses and the defenses were fighting to keep up with them. That was a great game and I enjoyed watching the Saints games offensively, defensively and one special teams. My hat’s off to them. They’ve gone through a lot this year. The thing that they do and what the players are doing and they are all fighting.”

Carolina Panthers Wide Receiver Brandon LaFell
Conference Call With New Orleans Media
Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Listen to LaFell's Call

Playing a game of what if with you where what if you guys won a couple games that you lost such as against Kansas City for example like with the Saints, as you look at the way your season developed, do you look at yourselves as a team with playoff potential that didn’t deliver?
“We looked at ourselves as a playoff contender that lost a couple of close game. We gave two or three games away, the Seattle game, the first Atlanta game we played and also the Tampa Bay game we played at home. We feel if we had won those games we would have put ourselves in a better situation at the end of this year.”

With the stuff with Cam Newton, do you guys go like your quarterback does like with a lot of teams. When Cam is playing well, your team plays really well. Is that a fair assessment of your team?
“Yes. That’s a great assessment. When he’s hot, he’s hitting people, spreading the ball around, running the ball. We all kind of go off him and feed off our leader.”

You’ve won two of your last three and seem to be playing well. Do you guys feel like you’re playing well at this stage?
“Yes, everybody feels like we’re playing well, but it’s kind of a bittersweet moment, because we feel like we should have been playing like this all year long and if we were playing like this all year long, we feel like we should have won a lot of these close games that we lost.”

Do you feel like you have to win Sunday or had to win the last couple of games to ensure coach Rivera’s return? Is that a conversation for you guys in the locker room?
“No, that’s not really a conversation, because we know we have a good coach here. Hopefully he’ll come back. We all want him back. We’re going to have a new GM, so we have to play for both ourselves and coach.”

Obviously you like LSU in the Peach Bowl. Who do you like in the BCS National Championship game?
“I like Bama. I’m not a Bama fan at all. I think they’re just too strong for Notre Dame right now. They’re too strong on defense and they can score on offense.”

Your numbers have dramatically improved in your first year. How do you feel your game is coming along?
“I feel I can keep improving and getting better. I feel like I’ve improved a lot over the last couple of years and I hear it a lot after the game from other DBs, so I have to keep doing what I’m doing, learn as much as I can from Smitty (Steve Smith) while he’s here and keep getting better.”

With your college background here, do your juices get flowing when you play the Saints?
“Yes. A lot of my old college teammates are still in Louisiana and come to the game when they hear we have a game.”

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