CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he benched reigning league MVP Cam Newton on Sunday night because he didn't want "chaos" setting in with his football team.
Rivera opened his press conference Wednesday with a stern statement, hoping it will put to rest his much-publicized decision to not start Newton in a game the Panthers lost 40-7 to the Seahawks.
"I am going to address this situation one last time — I made a decision based on rules. I treat everybody the same," Rivera said. "The reason you do it, especially when you are having a tough season, is because chaos can consume your football team. The idea was to do the right thing, treat everybody the same. I have done it before where I have had to treat people the same, and that's all I have done. That's the end of it. Please, as the football team would like to move forward and start focusing on the San Diego Chargers."
Rivera kept the sixth-year quarterback out for one series against the Seahawks because Newton violated a team rule by not wearing a tie on the team flight to Seattle. He wore a turtleneck instead.
The coach said after his comments Wednesday that he wouldn't answer any other questions about the situation.
Newton didn't address the media at all, as is his normal routine on Wednesdays since coming into the league in 2011 as the team's No. 1 draft pick. Team officials said it was because the Panthers were working on a later schedule than normal after returning from the West Coast on Monday. Newton is expected to address the media on Thursday, team officials said.
Tight end Greg Olsen said he's confident the Panthers won't let Rivera's decision to discipline Newton split the team's locker room, calling that idea a "media-driven story line."
"There has been zero comments that I have seen that have been anything other than positive, and everyone saying the same thing," Olsen said. "The idea that there has been a divide... is complete and utter nonsense."
Players were careful not to take sides on Wednesday.
"I feel like the situation was handled pretty good," tight end Ed Dickson said. Newton "took ownership of it, from his mouth, it will never happen again. We will move on from that situation. He's still our leader of the offense."
San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy, who spent eight seasons as an assistant coach in Carolina, said NFL coaches are often forced to make tough decisions.
"You have to make a decision on what you think is right for your team," McCoy said. "As a head coach that is your job and your responsibility to the organization. ... That's the role you are in."
The Panthers (4-8) are all but out of playoff contention one year after reaching the Super Bowl and losing 24-10 to the Denver Broncos, and things have gone downhill fast because of injuries and an inability to win close games.
Rivera is hoping the Panthers can find a way to win out and avoid their fourth losing season in six years.
Newton will start Sunday against the Chargers as normal.
There was a bright side for the Panthers on Wednesday, as three defensive starters — middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, safety Kurt Coleman and cornerback Daryl Worley — all returned to practice on a limited basis.
Rivera, however, said all three are still in the league's concussion protocol for now but that Kuechly's return brought energy to the practice field.
Defensive ends Mario Addison (ankle) and Charles Johnson (hamstring), linebacker David Mayo (concussion), right tackle Daryl Williams (ankle) and running back Jonathan Stewart (rest) did not practice.