CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera constantly reminds his players not to pay attention to the outside noise.
But the outside noise surrounding Cam Newton being benched for the opening series of Sunday's game because the quarterback violated a team travel policy by not wearing a tie on the flight to Seattle was so loud on Wednesday that Rivera felt he had to address it.
So he did with a rather terse opening statement:
Apparently, doing what you're supposed to do doesn't seem to explain the situation, set of circumstances. So I'm going to address this one last time. OK? Again, I made a decision based on rules. Treat everybody the same. The reason you do it, especially when you're having a tough season, is because if you don't, chaos, it can consume your football team. The idea was to do the right thing, treat everybody the same. I've done it before where I've had to treat people the same, and that's all I've done. That's the end of it. Please, as a football team, we would like to move forward and start focusing on the San Diego Chargers. So I'm going to ask you not to start asking questions [about it]. I'm going to talk about the Chargers, I'm going to talk about our football team going forward. Thank you.
Rivera spent most of the rest of his news conference talking about Sunday's home game against San Diego and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly advancing in the concussion protocol.
Newton, who typically speaks to the media on Wednesdays, was a no-show. A member of the public relations department gave no explanation other than the reigning NFL MVP might talk on Thursday.
Apparently, Newton didn't want to talk about the benching either.
One thing is clear: There is no apparent division in the locker room because Rivera took a stand on the tie rule with the face of the organization.
Tight end Greg Olsen said stories about the locker room being divided over Newton's punishment has been "media driven."
He's heard nothing from any player that would suggest otherwise.
"The idea that it's been split around, that there's a divide and faction of the locker room is complete, utter nonsense," Olsen said. "Those makes for fun storylines. That allows guys to go on radio shows and follow up and talk about it, but there's zero legitimacy to it."
Olsen initially didn't want to speak to reporters, knowing there would be a lot of questions about a rule that some consider silly.
But as a team captain he wanted to clear the air that the situation hadn't torn apart the locker room of a team that is 4-8 and all but out of playoff contention.
"I understand how it works," Olsen said. "When things are bad, it makes storylines more juicy. It almost makes it easier to cover. It makes it easier to write things.
"I get it. I understand how it works. It's a fun story, but we don't -- unless you guys ask us -- we don't spend a lot of time spending time worrying about it."
Backup quarterback Derek Anderson said the whole situation was blown out of proportion because he threw an interception on the first play of the 40-7 loss to Seattle.
"If we go three-and-out and punt, you guys are, ‘Oh, he missed the first three [plays]. It's not a big deal,' " Anderson said. "But it's a turnover, and you guys have turned into something way bigger than what it is."
Anderson doesn't anticipate any issues in the locker room moving forward.
"It's not my place to speak about the rules," he said. "I do stand behind them. Cam stands behind them. We have rules in place for a reason and we all need to abide by them regardless of what happens."
Shortly after Anderson spoke, the media portion of open locker room was shut down earlier than normal so Newton could speak.
Newton never showed.
Rivera did, and his message was clear.
"As I said," Rivera said, "the idea and the hope is with my opening statement we can go on from there and focus in on getting ready for the remainder of the season, but most importantly get ready for the Chargers."