Dark clouds have seemingly hung over the Panthers’ offseason since March, but on a clear spring Friday, there was actual football to talk about at the first of a two-day rookie minicamp. That didn’t necessarily mean football was what most wanted to talk about.
With the Greg Hardy situation getting more tabloid-worthy by the day, head coach Ron Rivera was peppered with questions about his defensive end, and each time Rivera answered similarly: “I can’t comment on that because it’s pending.”
Rivera did say “Greg’s a heck of a young man,” but the ongoing case was impossible to ignore. Even second-round pick Kony Ealy had to face questions about a guy he hasn’t yet met.
Not surprisingly, Ealy didn’t have much to say about Hardy, but he admitted Panthers’ staff warned the new guys about the spotlight they’re entering.
“When we first got here, they told us ‘it’s a different level now, so anything you do, everybody’s watching.’ So you definitely have to take heed to it and just act appropriately,” Ealy said.
After making their first playoff appearance in five years, the Panthers have experienced an offseason not many could have predicted. Their left tackle retired, they released their best receiver, key guys left through free agency, the franchise’s most important player had ankle surgery and their 15-sack defensive end was arrested.
“We had to make some very tough decisions going into free agency, very tough decisions going into the draft, and we’re going to have to cope with them,” Rivera said.
“It’s been an interesting offseason. When we first got into the season, a very wise sage (Panthers Director of Communications) Charlie Dayton told me ‘It’s going to bring a whole new set of problems.’ So we just handle them and deal with them as they come forward.”
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