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Ron Rivera, Luke Kuechly, Greg Olsen at Pro-Am full of optimism

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ron Rivera was a linebacker for the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XX and the head coach of the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

He says he didn't feel nearly the pressure in either of those that he did on Wednesday playing golf in front of Phil Mickelson and a huge gallery at the Wells Fargo Championship Pro-Am.

"The Super Bowl is easy compared to this," Rivera said. "This is the hard stuff. You're pretty much on your own, as opposed to being a part of the team."

Speaking of the Super Bowl, Rivera has high aspirations for the 2018 season. One reason is Pro Bowl quarterback Cam Newton is full go in offseason workouts.

"The last time he did that was 2015," Rivera said of his quarterback, who was coming off shoulder surgery a year ago. "I'm just saying ... I'm just saying.

"But I'm pretty excited about it. It's a really good mesh now between him and Scott [Turner] and Norv [Turner, new offensive coordinator]. The offensive players have responded well to coach Turner, which is exciting."

Rivera's immediate excitement was over what he felt was a solid draft that filled needs at key positions such as receiver, tight end and cornerback -- and getting the chance to play golf with one of the most popular players on the PGA Tour.

He wasn't the only happy Carolina connection at Quail Hollow Club. Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen teed off in the afternoon with Pro Bowl middle linebacker Luke Kuechly as his caddie.

Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil also was here supporting his good friend.

"Swing coach, mental coach, psychologist," Olsen said of Kalil.

Olsen, like Rivera, was in a good mood. He was less than a week removed from signing a two-year, $17.1 million extension that will keep him with the Panthers through 2020.

Olsen also was in the running for the ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst job that Dallas tight end Jason Witten reportedly has been offered for $4 million a year.

But Olsen's goal all along was to extend his playing career at Carolina.

"I haven't really followed that," he said. "I'm happy for the way things worked out for me. I've always said I wanted to play. I'm glad we got things worked out. We felt good about what we were able to get accomplished, considering everything.

"We'll let [Witten] worry about his own situation and see what plays out."

Olsen called the opportunity to play in the Pro-Am for the second time a "big deal." He's as much a perfectionist on the golf course as he is on the football field, only wanting video of his good shots posted on social media.

Kuechly was in a good mood as well, considering he can't participate fully in offseason workouts because of shoulder surgery. The shoulder was strong enough on Wednesday that the 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year could carry a golf bag, but the expectation for him and defensive end Julius Peppers (shoulder) is to be ready by training camp.

"It's good to learn, watch from a distance, help others out and get a new perspective of what the defense looks like and what we're doing," Kuechly said.

Kuechly could tell from a distance of about 25 yards on the driving range that Tiger Woods' swing was better than Olsen's.

"His swing's a little smoother than the guy's bag I'm carrying," said Kuechly, referred to by Olsen as a "lifer" on his bag. "We'll take some notes."

"I've got the most expensive caddie in PGA history," said Olsen, referring to Kuechly's average salary of $12.3 million a year.

Said Kuechly, "I think I'm in the tryout stage, so he's got to figure out if he's going to keep me long-term or get some professional guy to do it."

Rivera is glad both will be on his side this season as Carolina makes another run at the Super Bowl. He's particularly glad Olsen will be on the field instead of the booth.

"That was very fortuitous for us in terms of the timing," he said of the new deal. "Greg's young [33], obviously. He's done a lot of good things for us and it's good to have him locked up."