JENNY VRENTAS: You took out an ad in the Charlotte Observer last July headlined: “Why the Carolina Panthers will win Super Bowl XLVII.” After finishing 7-9, do you have any regrets about that?
RYAN KALIL: No. I knew there’d be some fireback, but that’s OK. The audience it was intended for, I think it was meaningful for them. I know fans appreciated and respected it. The fact that I’m not a big-name player is one of the reasons I took it out, too. If somebody like Adrian Peterson or Michael Vick had done the same thing for his team, it would be on SportsCenter every second of the day. I knew it would ultimately stay within the Carolinas. People talked about it being added pressure, but I don’t think pressure is necessarily a bad thing.
What I do regret, though, is not doing a better job, along with some of my teammates, of making sure that we stayed in the moment. In this league it’s hard to win week in and week out. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve led in the fourth quarter by 10 points or more, and we let it slip. That’s more frustrating than anything else. We’ve done some great things, but we’ve got to do a better job of finishing games. My expectations for this team aren’t going to change whether I take out an ad or not.”
VRENTAS: How do you respond to people who say Cam Newton isn’t the right person to be the Panthers quarterback?
KALIL: I’ve been a big fan of Cam from the beginning. He’s the guy who will lead this team to better seasons. Through all the controversy, through all the turmoil, he’s done a great job of evaluating himself and figuring out what he needs to do better—not just as a quarterback but as the leader of this team. By default he is the guy everyone looks to. Whether you like it or not, whether you’re 30 or you’re 20, that’s the one spot that has to be more level-headed than the rest of the guys. He’s done a good job of recognizing that. He’s heard the comments and the suggestions of his teammates and coaches, and he’s really done a good job of saying, ‘I need to be better at this, I need to be better at that.’ So that’s inspiring. And that’s all you can really ask for: Someone who recognizes that they haven’t arrived and that they need to do a better job, and figuring out a way to do that to the best of their ability.”
VRENTAS: The Panthers needed four straight wins at the end of the season even to reach that 7-9 finish. Many believe that your coach, Ron Rivera, is on the hot seat. How does that affect the locker room?
KALIL: The media perception is different from the club perception. I think every coach and every player is on the hot seat, really. Look at when the Giants went to the Super Bowl. Everyone throughout that season wanted Tom Coughlin gone, that’s all you kept hearing about, but the Giants won the Super Bowl. The thing I love about Coach Rivera is, it’s not changing anything he’s doing. He’s going to do what he knows best and help us take that next step to become a more consistent, well-rounded team. We have all the pieces to do it. At the end of last season we had nothing to gain, but the way we were playing and the way we were winning showed how much guys on this team respect and care for Coach. I know that will carry over to this year.