Ex-Cal LB Rivera hired to coach Carolina Panthers

Ex-Cal LB Rivera hired to coach Carolina Panthers

Jan. 11, 2011CAROLINA PAGE NFL PAGE

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (APCSN) -- The Carolina Panthers have entrusted Ron Rivera with turning around the NFL's worst team, making the San Diego defensive coordinator the second Latino head coach in NFL history.

Rivera was introduced on Tuesday. He replaces John Fox, who was let go earlier this month after Carolina went 2-14 in his ninth season.

It's the first head coaching job for the 49-year-old Rivera, who is of Puerto Rican and Mexican heritage. He joins ex-Raiders and Seahawks boss Tom Flores as the only Latino head coaches.

Rivera ran the Chargers' defense since midway through the 2008 season, with San Diego ranking tops in the NFL in total defense and pass defense this season. The ex-Bears linebacker also was defensive coordinator in Chicago from 2004-06.

"It gives me comfort that he was a former player," said owner Jerry Richardson, a former Baltimore Colts receiver. "He brings an approach and resume that we believe lends itself to success for our football team and organization."

Rivera was an All-American linebacker at Cal who formerlay held the school's all-time sack and career tackles records. Rivera holds the Bears' record for most tackles for loss in a season, which he set in 1983.

Rivera was one of four defensive coordinators to be interviewed by Panthers general manager Marty Hurney and team president Danny Morrison last week. The others Perry Fewell of the New York Giants, San Francisco's Greg Manusky and Rob Ryan of Cleveland were not asked in for second interviews.
REWIND: In limbo with 49ers, Manusky interviews with Carolina

Rivera arrived in Charlotte Monday, with the team proceeding with meetings and interviews despite a crippling snow and ice storm that shut down much of the city the past two days.

ESPN reported Rivera received a four-year, 11.2 million deal to become the fourth head coach in franchise's 16-year history. Fox was 78-74 with a Super Bowl appearance and two other playoff berths, but the team never had consecutive winning seasons and last made the postseason in 2008.

"I want to thank Mr. Richardson for this opportunity," Rivera said.

News of the impending hire spread quickly, with quarterback Jimmy Clausen congratulating Rivera on his Twitter account Tuesday.

"Look forward to meeting him and getting to work," Clausen wrote.

How Rivera fills out his offensive staff to deal with Clausen and the NFL's worst offense will be one of his first key moves. Richardson said last week that he wanted an upgrade after Carolina had 16 offensive touchdowns this season.

Rivera declined to comment on potential staff members.

Despite running a 3-4 defense in San Diego, Rivera said the Panthers will continue to use a 4-3 based on their personnel.

As Samardzija ages, it isn't as easy to lose the weight gained in offseason

As Samardzija ages, it isn't as easy to lose the weight gained in offseason

Jeff Samardzija is entering Year 2 of the five-year contract he signed with the Giants following the 2015 season.

With spring training underway, what is the hardest part about getting his body and mind prepared for the upcoming campaign?

"The pitching aspects of things, the older I get, the more they kind of just fall right in line with feeling my mechanics out," Samardzija explained on KNBR 680 on Wednesday morning. "For me, it's probably the cardio (laughter). The older I get, the more I realize that you put more weight on in the offseason, then it's a little harder to get off.

"You hear about it, right? You hear about it all the time when you're younger ... and my offseasons, I like to have offseasons. I don't watch my calories. I don't watch my intake (I don't really watch any of that anyways). But the offseason -- I have fun, I relax ... then you get working out again and usually those first five or six poles, two-mile runs, camelback hikes -- they're always pretty interesting the first couple times."

The former college wide receiver is listed at 225 pounds.

Samardzija turned 32 years old in January and is entering his 10th big-league season.

He went 12-11 with a 3.81 ERA over 32 starts last year.

Over his final 10 starts, he went 3-3 with a 2.45 ERA.

"The splitter came back for me there toward the end of the year," Samardzija said. "I kind of brought the curveball in to not replace, but kind of take up some of the space of the splitter that wasn't there.

"And then come September, the splitter showed up and then we had the curveball and we ran with it from there."

I don't skate like a man, just a darn good woman

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I don't skate like a man, just a darn good woman

In late December, I was invited to play in a pick-up hockey game with some other members of the local sports media community. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I was one of only two women there that day. Even now, female ice hockey players aren’t exactly common.

After the game, a reporter I’ve known a while – a guy I like a lot – said to me: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but you skate like a man.” I didn’t take it wrong, of course; he meant it as a compliment. The reporter wanted nothing more than to tell me I’d impressed him.

I thought about this exchange a lot in the days that followed. Had someone told me I played hockey like a boy when I was 15, I would have worn that description like a badge. Hell yeah, 15-year-old Sarah would have thought, I do play like a boy. I’m as tough as a boy. I’m as fierce and competitive as any boy on my team. I would have reveled in it, just as I reveled in a similar label I’d received even earlier in my adolescence: tomboy.

Yeah, I was a tomboy. I hung around with the neighborhood boys, riding bikes between each other’s houses or catching salamanders in the creek that ran through town. I loved sports, and my bedroom walls -- papered with newspaper clippings and photos of Flyers players -- were a far cry from the pink-tinged rooms that belonged to the girls at school. 

As much as I could, I dressed like a boy too, even once cutting the sleeves off of an oversized T-shirt before I went out to rollerblade with our next-door neighbors. My grandmother, who was visiting at the time, pulled me aside to tell me I really ought to dress more appropriately. I rolled my eyes.
I was a tomboy, and I loved the word and everything it stood for. I felt pride in my tomboyishness, believing that the things I liked – the things boys liked – were clearly better than the things stereotypically left to the girls.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit it was a conversation with a 15-year-old that changed my perspective, just a few days after my reporter friend had compared my hockey skills to those of a man. I sat down with Mo’ne Davis, the female Little League pitching phenom, for this very project. I asked her if she identified as a tomboy, and she shrugged. Not really, she said. Maybe other people wanted to define her that way, she suggested, but that wasn’t how she viewed things.

You know that record scratch sound effect they play on TV or in the movies? The one that denotes a sort of “wait … what?!” moment? That’s what happened in my head. Mo’ne Davis, the girl who played on the boys’ team and excelled, didn’t consider herself a tomboy?

Something clicked in my head after that. I’ve long identified as a feminist, and I’ve been a big supporter of girls in sports for as long as I can remember. I coach girls hockey, I’ve spoken at schools and camps about playing and working in sports as a woman. For some reason, though, it took a 15-year-old shrugging her shoulders at the label “tomboy” to take the power out of the word for me. Why does one have to be a tomboy, when one can simply be a girl who kicks ass? How had I never considered this before?

In many ways (and especially in sports) if something is male, it’s considered superior. It goes beyond just the things kids like to do, and it’s all old news. It’s also something I’m ashamed to admit I’ve bought into for practically all of my life. But no longer. How can I help change the narrative if I’m too busy playing along with it?

And if I could do it over, when that reporter approached me after our hockey game to tell me I skated like a man, I would have smiled, shook my head and said: Nah. But I skate like a darn good woman.