Panthers first-year coach trying to stay positive

By Steve Reed

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 23 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

Rivera has his guy moving forward in Newton.

Now he knows the Panthers have to fill in the pieces around him.

The core of the team is under contract and it's now a matter of getting guys healthy for next year and adding some pieces to the puzzle next offseason. In the meantime, younger players are gaining experience this year that Rivera believes that will pay off down the road in terms of the overall team depth.

Tight end Greg Olsen said Rivera is doing "a great job" as coach, but also knows that when push comes to shove that doesn't matter.

In the NFL, there's only one thing that does.

"There are no positives when you lose," Olsen said. "There just aren't. There are no moral victories. It's a results-oriented business and right now the results aren't good."

Rivera doesn't need to be reminded of that. He knows few will remember the shortened offseason or the injuries.

They'll remember wins and losses.

"I'm playing the hand that is dealt me and I'm trying to play it the best that I can," Rivera said. "As we go through this I'm learning a lot about myself, about our coaches, about the players, about the organization. I'm learning how to do things and do them better next season."

Next season.

At 2-8, that's what the Panthers are playing for.

"I hope this season has given so many people hope of what the Panthers can be," Newton said. "That is what coach Rivera stresses each and every week. You can't just think yeah, we're 2-8 and that's horrible... You have to move on, keep building and control what you can control."

INJURY UPDATED: Panthers tight end Jeremy Shockey returned to practice and will play Sunday against the Colts after missing last week's game against Detroit with bruised ribs. ... Linebackers James Anderson (ankle) and Omar Gaither (knee) and defensive end Charles Johnson (shoulder) sat out practice, but Rivera is optimistic Anderson and Johnson will play. "I'm playing, definitely," Johnson said. ... Linebackers Dan Connor (neck) and Jason Phillips were limited in practice after missing last week.

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