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Ron Rivera on 49ers MNF: “I fell asleep somewhere in the beginning of the 4th quarter.”

The Carolina Panthers head coach talked about Sunday’s game against the 49ers, Gabbert, the offense, and the protest. You can listen to the full interview here.

You guys have faced Chip Kelly’s Eagles teams the last couple years. When you look at the 49ers do you see the Eagles’ offenses? Do you see a lot of similarities between the two squads?

Very much so. You do most certainly. Again, it’s a solid offensive line; big, physical guys upfront which is part of what Coach Kelly wants, you’ve got a very active tight end, you’ve got wide receivers that run quick, cutting routes, and then you’ve got a good compliment of running backs, starting with Carlos Hyde, I think they got what they need. Then you have a trigger man with the ability to run or throw. It’s what he’s looking for, it’s what he built when he was at Oregon and it’s what he was doing in Philadelphia. I think he’s starting to put it together in San Francisco.

When you faced the Eagles, you were facing a Sam Bradford-led offense, and Bradford doesn’t run a whole lot. What’s the difference in facing a more stationary quarterback in that offense vs somebody like Blaine Gabbert who can run with the football.

I think again the thing you have to do is you have to play your responsibility. When Sam Bradford was the quarterback, we still played our responsibility for the zone read. Now, we knew he wasn’t going to scramble as much and that’s the difference I think more so than anything else. They run the same offense, it’s just a matter of whether or not the quarterback will pull it and keep it or pull it and throw it. That was always one of the concerns too. I think Nick Foles ran it very very well for him at one point too as well. We saw Mark Sanchez do a nice job with it too. Again it comes down to, in my opinion, doing your job on the defensive side in terms of trying to stop this offense.

Did you get a chance to watch the Monday Night Game? I know it’s pretty late out there or did you wait for the tape?

I unfortunately stayed up and watched. And the reason I say ‘unfortunate’ is because I fell asleep somewhere in the beginning of the 4th quarter. I got to see three quarters of it and like I said, Carlos Hyde I thought was an impressive runner. He’s done a nice job for them and I like their combination of receivers. And I do think that’s a nice sized offensive line in front of their team. Again, I think they have the tools, I think Coach is trying to establish what he wants to do and how he wants to do it.

Is Cam Newton a full go in practice?

Oh, absolutely! He was a full go when we practiced on Monday. If anything, he had a big day for us against Denver. He’s doing real well. I don’t want to say there’s too much made of it. He came out of the game and he was fine. He was sore from the shots he took and being tackled to the ground, but you talk to him and ask him, he’s fine.

You mentioned the size along the offensive line. Obviously their biggest lineman is a 2nd year, former 7th round pick in Trent Brown. What did you see from him in that opening Monday Night game and how impressed are you, considering his background in entering the league as a 7th round pick.

He’s large. He really is. He reminds me of Bubba Paris that big physical guy that is athletic, He gets those long arms on you, he’s tough to get away from. I think there’s some good things. It’s anchored by Joe Staley, here’s a veteran guy that’s been doing it long time and does some nice things for him. Again, it’s one of those things where they have some pretty good pieces in place.

The 3-safety look that Jim O’Neil unveiled what kind of challenges has that presented to the offense and do you think more teams will start using it?

Well, you bring three safeties in, who do you take out? Do you take a linebacker out or do you take a corner out? You take a linebacker out all it really is is nickel. So, again, I think it’s again looking at and identifying what they’re doing. And once you identify what they are doing you treat those guys as bodies. I think it’s something people have done before, used before. They did it in New York a few years back when Perry Fewell was defensive coordinator. I believe Rex Ryan has used it before as well. I think the concept is a good idea, you got a good big physical guy that can run and then you still fit inside the box to stop the run. It’s one of those things I think some people are going to go to and use, but at the same time, if the offensive coaches can figure it out, it’s like anything else, they will attack it. You just go with what you feel as a coordinator and use it to the best of your ability.

You guys are coming off of a long break here and the Niners are coming off a short break. Do you feel like that is an advantage for you guys or is there any caution you have to give your team about maybe over-preparing when you have that extra time?

Well what we try to do is treat it like a normal week with all that extra time. So we pretty much brought them in on Monday—because we didn’t have any regular season tape on these guys—we brought them in on Monday, we went through our normal Monday type of film review, then they did their conditioning with the strength and conditioning folks and then they were done. I gave them their normal Tuesday off, because again, we didn’t have tape on these guys until late Monday night, so I just brought them in today and today’s our first real day of preparation.

What tape did you watch prior to Monday night?

Well, we watched the preseason tape and we went from there.

You guys got a big game out of Andy Lee in the opener what does having a punter like that do for a team especially one that has a good defense like you. How does the special teams compliment what you’re doing on defense?

Well the big thing more than anything else and you’re right, Andy Lee did have a big game and I know you guys are very familiar with him. He’s a solid football player and does a great job for us, and his value was—and you saw it—he flipped the field one time for us in a big situation, it really helped us. Again, if you are playing good defense and you have a punter that can flip the field, it can mean a lot to your group.

How has Blaine Gabbert looked compared to five years ago when you were studying him coming out of the draft?

He looks more confident. I think if he gets a better feel for how to run this offense, I think he’ll be more and more confident. I think they have two dynamic, young quarterbacks. And I say young because they haven’t had a lot of playing time lately. Now it’s an opportunity to get back into a system I think suits both their talents. I think they both have very solid skill-sets, they can both deliver a football, they are strong runners, they have good field vision and I think these guys fit what he wants to try and do.

You’ve obviously faced Colin a couple of years ago in the playoffs. Do you guys go back and just freshen up some of the film on him to get an idea if the Niners plug him in?

Well more so than anything else we had a chance to watch what he did in the preseason. And again, here’s a guy who’s got a good arm, shows some patience, and can deliver a good football when he has to.

Just in terms of the mindset coming in, Ron, what you wanted your team to come in after the Super Bowl loss and how they’ve rallied after this loss, going into this as the home opener, does this help block those other games out and they can focus on this one?

I’d like to believe so. The hard part is having to open up. After you play the Super Bowl you open and you play the same group of people you finished the season with then all the hype begins and you have to deal with that for five more months. That, to me made it a little bit harder. I don’t think anyone realizes or understands how difficult that was, I mean it’s been 46 years since the league has done anything like that. That was a unique set of circumstances and having to deal with that and trying to focus in and get the 2016 campaign started. That to me was difficult, but I think our guys handled it very well. We had a chance to win it all with the last five or six seconds in the game. It’s one of those things that the league decided that’s what TV wanted, we gave them a good show on Thursday and as far as I’m concerned and our team is concerned, it’s now time to start the 2016 campaign. It was a unique set of circumstances that had it’s own complications and situations, that hadn’t been dealt with in 46 years.

What have you told your players about the protest and what do you think of it?

Well, I know this, I was raised on a military base and so I have a different perspective. I think every individual has the freedom and rights to decide and do what they want that’s the beauty of it. Because this is America and that’s what the men and women of the armed forces fought for, in some cases they committed the ultimate sacrifice for us. I’ve got a brother who was a first responder. He’s a retired San Jose police officer, who served very valiantly and courageously for the city of San Jose and I have tremendous respect for all that. I think, again, it’s an individual thing. What we do here is each individual has the right to do what they want to do. That’s as simple as it gets. I know this, I stand a little taller, I stand a little straighter, I got my hand on my heart, that’s how I honor the flag and the United States of America.

Have you related that background to your players?

No, but I think my players know my background. I’ve talked enough about growing up in the military. One of the charities I sponsor is the USO. One of the things i’m involved with is some of the Charlotte Metro Police department. Trying to support them as much as I can. And I just think again, just try to lead by example and hopefully you set a good example.