Ron Rivera stands by benching Cam Newton despite uproar

ByDavid Newton ESPN logo
Monday, December 5, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Pantherscoach Ron Rivera said he expected a "feeding frenzy'' when he benched quarterback Cam Newton for the first series of Sunday's 40-7 loss at Seattle for violating a team travel dress code.

But Rivera said he remains comfortable with the decision, pointing out that he has disciplined other players in the past for similar offenses.

"I'm very comfortable with it,'' Rivera said Monday. "The truth of the matter is I have to treat everybody the same. I really do. And that's all that was. There was no underlying message. There was no feud, because I've done this before.

"It's just unfortunate, the guys that I did this to before weren't the quarterback. That's why it's such a big deal. That's why I think it's quite honestly being made really bigger than it really is.''

Newton, the reigning NFL MVP, was benched because he didn't wear a dress shirt and tie Saturday on the team flight from San Jose, California, where the team spent the week preparing for the Seahawks, to Seattle.

Newton said he didn't have a dress shirt and tie because he sent most of a week's worth of clothes back to Charlotte on Friday, as the rest of the team did.

He wore a black turtleneck and jacket instead, adding it felt like "I wore a similar outfit as this before and nothing was done.''

Newton addressed his dress-code violation with the Carolina offense at a meeting on Saturday night, a team source told ESPN's Adam Schefter, and Rivera addressed it at the full team meeting Saturday, the source said.

Rivera remained adamant that the punishment was no different than he has made for other players and that he's moving on to Sunday's game against San Diego.

"I knew it was going to be a feeding frenzy,'' he said. "That's the way it is. As far as I'm concerned, I've addressed it, he's addressed it and I'm treating everybody the same, and I will continue to do that. So I'm done with it.''

Newton missed only one play, as the Panthers' first series ended on the game's first play from scrimmage -- when backup Derek Anderson threw an interception. Offensive coordinator Mike Shula said Newton's punishment didn't impact the way he played, noting that Newton was "very focused.''

The decision to bench Newton created a debate over whether Rivera did the right thing.

Rivera said he isn't concerned whether the issue will create unrest in the locker room, but he is concerned about the mental state of his team, which is 4-8 this season after going 15-1 and reaching the Super Bowl last year.

"We have five core values here that Mr. Richardson preaches,'' Rivera said of team owner Jerry Richardson. "Hard work, harmony, teamwork, listen, respect. It's all over the place. You can be who you are. You can keep your personality, but you've got to keep it within that framework.

"That's what's important. We try to be who we are, but there is a framework that we have. There's a set of rules, and it's true for society. A lot of thing that I do here isn't just about football ... That's what this was. It was a learning opportunity. We're going to move on from there.''

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