Ron Rivera was quick to point out he and John Fox wouldn’t be playing against each other on Sunday.
The same can be said for Cam Newton and Peyton Manning, who won’t be on the field at the same time even though they’ll be the most talked-about players.
The matchup between Newton and Denver linebacker Von Miller – No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the 2011 NFL draft – befits reality more than coaching or quarterback duels. It’s the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl quarterback vs. the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year and Pro Bowl linebacker.
And they’re pretty friendly.
“I am Cam’s biggest fan,” Miller said. “Coming out with him last year and watching him fight all the adversity that he had in college and come into the league and perform at a high level, not just being able to run the ball but throw the ball, overall being the great superstar he is. If I had sons that play quarterback, I would tell them to watch Cam Newton.”
Newton wasn’t as effusive with his praise of Miller, but his compliments rank among his highest for a defensive opponent all season.
“Von is a very elusive defender,” Newton said. “He’s not very big in stature, but he still (wreaks) havoc with the things he brings to the table. He plays linebacker. He plays defensive end. He can cover. He can pressure the quarterback.
“He’s about as all-around a defensive player as you can have.”
Going into the draft, it was clear the Panthers would select Newton first overall. The team didn’t hold a workout for Miller because his position wasn’t one of Carolina’s many pressing needs following a 2-14 season.
Still, Rivera said Miller ended up being No. 2 on their board, in the mix with standout wide receivers A.J. Green and Julio Jones.
“We had to react to what Carolina did in front of us, but we felt like we were going to get a good player at that No. 2 pick,” Fox said. “And we’re really pleased with who we took.”
Though Miller had to adjust to the team’s 4-3 defense in a lockout-shortened offseason, his 64 tackles and 11.5 sacks were good enough to get him All-Pro honors last year. In 23 games with the Broncos, Miller has 97 tackles and 20.5 sacks, with nine already this season.
“He’s an explosive linebacker,” Rivera said. “They play him as 4-3 linebacker and move him and use him as a pass rush guy and move him around there. He’s versatile.
“He could have easily, if that was your desire, been the first pick in the draft. He’s got that kind of ability.”
Miller and the Broncos have yet to face a dual-threat quarterback through eight games this season.
“Every week there’s a new set of challenges,” Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said, “and certainly some of the things they do with Cam and some of the abilities that he has as a player, they’re unique and you have to account for that.”
A centerpiece to the Broncos’ scheme is Miller, who told USA Today earlier this week that if he can sack Newton he’ll celebrate by doing the Superman pose.
“That would be great,” Miller said. “I hope I get a chance to do it.”
And it’d be something he could show his future son, too.
Jones: 704-358-5223; Twitter: @jjones9