Panthers coordinator McDermott clears air with players on Redskins interview

jjones@charlotteobserver.comJanuary 1, 2014 


Carolina Panthers (59) linebacker Luke Kuechly and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott discuss a drill during practice at Gibbs Stadium on the campus of Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC on Saturday, July 27, 2013.

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Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott told his players during Wednesday morning’s defensive meeting that he would be interviewing this week for Washington’s head coaching job.

He cleared the air early Wednesday, less than a day after the Observer reported he would take the interview, and then it was back to business for the Panthers.

“He came out and let us know we’re his family, but he will be taking an interview this week with (Washington),” cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “You got to respect that. Every assistant coach, it’s their dream to be the head coach one day and that’s what he wants to do. He came out and said it, and the whole group respects him.

“It won’t be a distraction. We still got one goal, and the goal is to win the Super Bowl. His heart is still with us.”

Washington fired coach Mike Shanahan on Monday and the following day arranged an interview for this week with McDermott. According to reports, Washington planned to also interview Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

Under NFL rules, coordinators with playoff teams that have a first-round bye can interview with other teams this week. Five Panthers, all starters on defense, said McDermott interviewing with another team this week would not be a distraction.

“We’re family, we’re a team, we’re a unit; we already know it,” defensive end Greg Hardy said. “He came to us like a man, a coach, a mentor is supposed to. We’re proud of him. We played for him and this is the reward he gets, like the Pro Bowl, like the records. It’s just what comes with greatness.”

When McDermott told Panthers coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman about the interview, Gettleman’s advice was to be prepared, because he only gets one chance to make a first impression.

“We all go through it; we try to minimize it as far as it being a distraction, and I think the league has found a happy medium as far as that’s concerned,” Rivera said of interviewing candidates on playoff teams.

Under the old rules, coaches on playoff teams could not interview for openings, and Rivera said he missed out on some opportunities because of that.

“The nice thing is it won’t interfere with our preparation, it won’t interfere with our practices, and we really do appreciate that,” he said.

“There’s a time for everything. You say this is when I’m going to do this, this is when I’m going to do that. You have enough opportunities, you have enough time. This week, it’s not like I have the coaches working til 9, 10, 11 o’clock like they normally do. I want them to get home, spend time with their families the next few days. There’s going to be plenty of opportunities for preparation.”

Back in black: The Panthers will bring out the all-black uniforms for their Jan. 12 home playoff game, the team announced.

The uniforms, which in an poll were voted the greatest in NFL history, will be worn for the fourth time in team history after the Panthers have gone 1-2 in them.

Carolina lost to Denver in 2012 in the uniforms’ debut, then lost in the preseason this year to Philadelphia before beating the Jets in December.

Carolina will wear silver helmets, per usual. Teams cannot change helmet colors during the year.

Steve Smith update: Rivera said wide receiver Steve Smith will not practice this week and will continue rehabbing his sprained knee.

Smith was the only player not at walk-through practice and said he’s still week-to-week.

“We’re going to hold him out,” Rivera said. “Steve is right on schedule, he’s doing a great job, he’s feeling better every day, at least that’s what he’s telling me. You know Steve; Steve will do everything he can. Steve will be where we need him to be when it’s time.”

Smith sprained his posterior cruciate ligament// against New Orleans in Week 16 and has not played or practiced since. He said after Sunday’s game at Atlanta that if Carolina had to play this week, he would not be able.

Roster move: With some uncertainty with tight end Ben Hartsock’s knee, the Panthers signed rookie tight end D.C. Jefferson to the practice squad.

The Cardinals drafted Jefferson in the seventh round of the 2013 draft but cut him in Week 9 after he was arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. The Panthers like Jefferson’s 6-foot-5, 255-pound frame.

“I think he’s got an opportunity as he develops and learns,” Rivera said. “I think signing him, hopefully we’ll have him for the future, and he’ll give us an opportunity to have another guy in camp.”

Rivera said there was positive news from Hartsock’s MRI this week and expressed little concern for his availability in the playoffs.

In a corresponding move, the Panthers cut running back Armond Smith from the practice squad.

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9

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