Rivera preaches focus as team puts on pads for first time

SPARTANBURG, SC (WCCB Charlotte) — The offense cut the defense some slack.

And that didn’t sit well with head coach Ron Rivera.

“It wasn’t good enough,” Rivera said. They weren’t ready to play football. It’s baloney.”

In one of the first 11-on-11 drills in full-pads, the defense could not shift the correct personnel on the field causing Cam Newton and the offense to wait for the defense to get set. Rivera strongly voiced his opinion to the defense which drew a nice roar from the fans in attendance at Wofford College.

“I told the offense that if that happens again, snap the ball,” Rivera said. “They have to know who’s in, what their calls are and they have to get themselves lined up. That’s not acceptable and I let them know it.”

The first day of pads came and went with no significant injuries. Wide receiver Stephen Hill sat out with a sore knee after he landed awkwardly on it during Friday’s practice. Rivera expects Hill to be at practice on Sunday.

Running back Jonathan Stewart sat out Saturday to limit contact. Rivera calling it a ‘vet-day’.

The on-field highlight from Saturday morning’s practice came from linebacker Shaq Thompson who intercepted a pass from Cam Newton intended for Greg Olsen. Thompson, the team’s first round pick in 2015, tipped the ball in the air to himself and came down with the pick.

“Shaq has really come a long way. We saw that as the season ended and he has kind of picked up where he left off,” Rivera said. “He recalls what we do on the defensive-side which is outstanding and the way he’s been practicing has been good.”

Much has been made of the young secondary in the off-season with the Panthers throwing three rookie defensive backs into the fire. But Rivera will be leaning on a veteran in the secondary, Tre Boston, to have an increased play-making role.

“I think its time for Tre (Boston) to take himself to the next level,” Rivera said. He’s doing the leadership things you would expect. He has great natural play-making ability and he showed it the other day in practice.”

The Panthers return to the practice field with a 9:25 am practice at Wofford College on Sunday morning.