Ron Rivera invokes Ditka's teachings with Super Bowl preparations

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera plans to give his players and staff the same advice in preparing for Super Bowl 50 that Mike Ditka gave the 1985 Chicago Bears.

"One of the things Coach Ditka emphasized to us was to enjoy the moment,'' said Rivera, a second-year linebacker for the '85 Bears team that beat the New England Patriots 46-10 in Super Bowl XX.

"The moment doesn't come very often. It's hard. It's hard to get to where we are right now.''

That means the dabbin', dancing and celebrations Carolina has become identified with won't end, just like the "Super Bowl Shuffle'' the '85 Bears were identified with didn't end.

Rivera has already told players what he's preached all season long: to be themselves.

"They're going to embrace it,'' Rivera said. "It's really a matter of managing it more than anything else. They've earned it. They deserve it. But the thing we've got to remember is what we're playing for, and that's to win it.

"It's not about getting there. It's not about being a part of it. It's about winning it. And that will be our main focus.''

The other piece of advice Rivera took from the '85 Bears was to not change.

"Do what you've done,'' Rivera said. "Some of my experiences in coaching, you get to certain experiences like the playoffs, and sometimes you get a little bit of panic. Am I doing enough? Should I do more? Should I change this?

"I told our coordinators this morning, we're going to stick to what got us to where we are. We'll emphasize that to the players and make sure we keep our personality.''

The Panthers advanced to the Super Bowl with a 49-15 victory over Arizona in Sunday's NFC Championship Game at Bank of America Stadium.

That put Rivera in a small fraternity of people who have coached and played in a Super Bowl.

"It's one of those things you work toward and hope for the opportunity,'' said Rivera, in his fifth year as the Panthers' head coach. "To be in that class is really neat. I'd like to be able to emulate what Coach [Ditka] did and win it.''

Rivera said he plans to keep this week as normal as possible. Coaches were already busy Monday breaking down Denver to establish a game plan.

Players will practice Wednesday through Friday implementing the plan. It will be refined next week.

The team is scheduled to fly to the Super Bowl site in Santa Clara, California, on Sunday.

"You start to talk to people about how to do things the next couple of weeks,'' Rivera said. "People start to say, 'Well, we should think about doing this, think about doing that.'

"I go: 'Wait a minute, guys. Let's stick to what we've done. That's what got us to where we are.' So that's going to be my emphasis as I go through the schedule of getting prepared for the next two weeks.''