Players, coaches say Panthers face leadership void
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Several coaches and players agree with ousted general manager Marty Hurney's assessment that there's a leadership void in the Panthers locker room.
After being fired Monday Hurney suggested more players need to "step and up and say enough is enough" when it comes to losing games.
He said leadership in any NFL locker room is critical — and the young Panthers don't have enough of it.
"I think Marty hit the nail on the head," Cam Newton said.
The second-year quarterback said there is leadership to an extent, but "it's not enough consistently."
Newton's leadership skills in particular have come under fire as he's received criticism from teammate Steve Smith earlier in the year for sulking on the sidelines and more recently from national media outlets who perceived Newton as pointing fingers at others ran than himself following Sunday's 19-14 loss to Dallas.
Newton, who rarely lost in college, admits this year's rough start has tested his him.
"It's extremely hard to lead because everyone on the outside starts looking and trying to find the reason we're 1-5 when he had such high expectations," Newton said.
Coach Ron Rivera agreed with Hurney as well, saying the Panthers need more players to take on a leadership role and that if they enough don't step up than he's going to have to look for replacements.
"Not enough guys have stepped up," Rivera said. "There's the inability that some people have to do that, but those that have it need to step up and put it on the line."
Rivera said he liked when center Ryan Kalil predicted a Super Bowl win for Carolina — an idea that now seems farfetched — because it showed confidence.
In his eyes it showed leadership, not boastfulness.
"If the other 52 guys don't think that way, something is wrong," Rivera said.
Hurney took full responsibility for Carolina's "losing environment" after being fired, but went on to say that the Panthers need leaders to step up in the locker room, citing Tom Brady in New England and Ray Lewis in Baltimore as examples.
"One of the keys to winning in this league is the makeup of the locker room," Hurney said. "And I think that we need somebody to step up down there and take hold. ... We have young players, but at some point I think somebody needs to step up and say enough is enough. Because when it comes down to those (close) games and it comes down to those plays, I think it's a matter of confidence."