Panthers Kalil: No Super Bowl Talk This Year
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Carolina’s Ryan Kalil isn’t about to say anything that can be construed as a Super Bowl prediction.
Not after last year.
The Panthers three-time Pro Bowl center created a stir days before the start of training camp last year when he took out a full page advertisement in the Charlotte Observer and wrote about the Panthers being “Super Bowl XLVII champions!”
That didn’t happen.
The Panthers started last season slow and finished 7-9, failing to reach the postseason. Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl.
Like his team, Kalil’s season didn’t turn out as planned.
He broke his foot in the fifth week of the season and spent the final 11 games watching helplessly from the sidelines.
Kalil doesn’t regret taking out the ad, saying he meant it as a rallying call for fans — not as a prediction.
“I know a lot of people chalked up my ad to a Super Bowl prediction, but I try to think of it as something more than that,” said Kalil, who still has the advertisement framed at home. “It was something that was from the heart to the fans that we do care about winning and want to be the team that they want us to be.”
Kalil said regardless of Carolina’s record last year he still feels just as strongly about this year’s team.
“I think we’re still on the right track,” Kalil said. “It’s a great group of guys and very talented core of players. So my expectations haven’t changed.”
Cam Newton is back for a third season as the Panthers franchise quarterback looking to improve on a 13-19 record as a starter.
The team also returns a formidable running back tandem in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, along with a defense that improved markedly last season behind rookie middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, and defensive ends Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy, who combined for 23.5 sacks in 2012.
Now the task will be winning close games. They’re 2-12 in games decided by seven points or less in two seasons under coach Ron Rivera.
Kalil said he thought last year’s team was on the verge of a breakout season following a 6-10 campaign in 2011. When he took out the ad last July 25, he didn’t tell anyone of his intentions, calling it an “impulse decision” to motivate fans and teammates before the start of camp.
In the ad Kalil talked about a “one-hundred percent, sterling silver victory. The Lombardi Trophy. And it reads: Carolina Panthers — Super Bowl XLVII Champions!”
At the time, it was well received.
Rather than lecture Kalil for putting pressure on the organization, Rivera backed Kalil’s sentiments. Rivera even ordering t-shirts for players that read: “I’ve got Ryan Kalil’s back.”
Kalil said he took a lot of grief nationally from those outside of the organization after the Panthers started the season 1-6.
But he said “I don’t have any regrets about doing it.”
“The one thing I wish we would have done a better job of is focusing on the task at hand and taking it day by day,” Kalil said. “Early on we got caught up in the end goal. And maybe that’s my fault. … If there is a lesson to be learned it’s making sure to worry about is to take care of the business at hand and not worrying about the end goal. That’s something we have to work on this year.”
The Panthers, who’ve not been to the playoffs since 2008 and not appeared in the Super Bowl in a decade, report to Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. for the start of training camp Thursday. The first practice is scheduled for Friday.
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)