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Panthers owner David Tepper, frustrated by latest loss, says he won’t accept long-term mediocrity



CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers owner David Tepper would not address the future of coach Ron Rivera and general manager Marty Hurney during a Monday meeting with Charlotte-based reporters, but made it clear he will not accept long-term mediocrity.

Tepper also made it clear no decision has been made on the future of quarterback Cam Newton, saying that can’t happen until the first pick of the 2015 draft is completely healthy.

Newton, who has one year left on his contract, recently was placed on injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury that sidelined him after an 0-2 start.

Tepper’s meeting with reporters was held 24 hours after the Panthers fell to 5-5 with a 29-3 loss to Atlanta that put a big dent in their playoff aspirations.

Tepper said he didn’t sleep well after the Atlanta loss, the second time in four games the Panthers were blown out by an opponent. They were beaten 51-13 at San Francisco on Oct. 27.

“Every time we have a loss, my mood is s—-y,” said Tepper, adding that he never accepted losing on the business side, where he accumulated a $12 billion net worth as a hedge fund manager.

The Panthers have a 13-14 record since Tepper purchased the organization for an NFL-record $2.275 billion from former owner Jerry Richardson in 2018. If they post a losing record this season, it will be the second in a row and third in the past four seasons since reaching the Super Bowl in 2015.

Carolina’s record against NFC South opponents since 2015 is 7-14, compared to 14-4 in the three previous seasons.

Tepper’s frustration over losing was evident as he continually said long-term mediocrity would not be accepted. He also said fans, many of whom left the stadium early on Sunday, were smart enough to recognize long-term mediocrity.

Rivera, who this year surpassed John Fox as the winningest coach in team history, has an overall record of 76-61-1. The Panthers have a record of 195-198-1 since becoming a franchise in 1995.

Tepper made wholesale changes to the business side after purchasing the team from Richardson, who put the team up for sale amid allegations of sexual and racial workplace misconduct. The NFL fined Richardson $2.75 million after a lengthy investigation.

Tepper did not make changes to the football staff last season after a 7-9 record following a 6-2 start because Newton’s sore right shoulder played a factor in a seven-game losing streak.

Newton’s shoulder healed after offseason cleanup surgery, but he suffered a Lisfranc injury in the third preseason game and re-aggravated it in the second game. Tepper said that ideally Newton, 30, will recover fully from the injury and perhaps one day lead the Panthers to a Super Bowl.

Tepper said Newton has done a lot of good for the team and Charlotte, calling him one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Tepper also made it clear he liked Newton’s replacement, Kyle Allen, suggesting the second-year, undrafted quarterback has played above expectations despite throwing four interceptions against Atlanta and nine in the past four games.

The Panthers are 5-3 under Allen this season and 6-3 overall dating back to a victory in last season’s finale at New Orleans, where the Panthers play on Sunday. Allen started his career with a 5-0 record, making him the seventh quarterback in NFL history to get off to such a start.

Tepper defended the organization’s decision not to go to Colin Kaepernick’s workout in Atlanta on Saturday, saying the team has a young quarterback in Allen, a third-round pick in Will Grier, and Newton, so there was no interest in signing a veteran quarterback.

Tepper also said he has a copy of the video of Kaepernick’s workout, so attending the session wasn’t necessary.

Neither Rivera nor Hurney were a part of Tepper’s meeting. Earlier in the day, Rivera expressed hope the Panthers still could make a playoff run. He said they still control their own destiny with two games left against the Saints (8-2), a rematch against Atlanta (3-7) and contests against Washington (1-9), Indianapolis (6-4) and Seattle (8-2).

“Probably the biggest thing is we control it,” Rivera said of the team’s playoff hopes, even though the Panthers currently stand ninth in the NFC playoff hunt. “It’s one game at a time. It’s one focus at a time. That’s probably the biggest thing we have to do, is focus in on the next opponent.

“That’s just getting ready for New Orleans.”

Tepper’s focus, with future plans to move the team headquarters to a state-of-the-art facility in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and ultimately get a new stadium in Charlotte to host the Panthers and an MSL team, is to give fans hope and end the long-term mediocrity.

While he didn’t mention Rivera or Hurney, he appeared to be putting them on notice.

As Tepper indicated the day he was hired, his first priority is winning.

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Patriots re-sign veteran kicker Nick Folk after appendectomy



The New England Patriots have re-signed kicker Nick Folk, the team announced on Saturday.

The move was expected after the Patriots waived Kai Forbath on Monday and were left with no kickers on the roster.

Forbath was signed to replace Folk, who had an appendectomy last week. In Sunday’s loss to the Houston Texans, Forbath went 1-for-2 on extra points and made a 23-yarder on his only field goal attempt.

Folk, who was released after having the procedure, had a locker still set up in the Patriots’ facility, and the expectation was that he could return to the team later in the season. The 12th-year player has made 7 of 9 field goals (77.8%) in three games for the Patriots and is 3-for-3 on extra point attempts.

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Lions fined $110,000 for not updating Matthew Stafford’s status



MINNEAPOLIS — The Detroit Lions and members of its football operations were fined $110,000 total for not properly updating the injury status of quarterback Matthew Stafford before the Nov. 10 game against the Chicago Bears — the first game Stafford missed since the start of the 2011 season.

The NFL fined the Lions as an organization $75,000, along with head coach Matt Patricia $25,000 and general manager Bob Quinn $10,000, for the way they handled Stafford on the injury report. Stafford had fractured bones in his back in the loss to Oakland on Nov. 3 and while he practiced all week, he was listed as questionable on the Friday injury report ahead of the game against the Bears.

Detroit never updated Stafford’s status to being out, even though by Saturday he was being labeled by reports as a game-time decision and then ruled out Sunday morning. Multiple players then told ESPN and other outlets they were informed Saturday that Stafford would not be able to play, leading to more questions about how the franchise handled the reporting of Stafford’s injury.

After Detroit’s loss to Chicago, Patricia said “it was unsafe” for Stafford to play, but declined to get into specifics about the timeline at the time — a timeline that remained murky in the days after the game as questions persisted about the timing of the injury.

On Monday, the day after the game, he offered a little more clarity, including saying he told the team Saturday night to prepare for all options.

“I would say the timeline for us was when we got to Chicago late Saturday night, got done with meetings, I think at that point in time that I just knew he wouldn’t start,” Patricia said. “And out of respect for him and everything that he’s done for this organization, I just wanted to leave the option open when we got to Sunday if he wanted to dress.”

The NFL policy states, “if, prior to the team’s arrival at the stadium on game day, an event occurs that causes the club to decide that a player will not start or will not play, the club must update its Game Status Report.”

The Lions never updated the status of Stafford. Stafford, 31, has not practiced or played since that time and Patricia said earlier this week they have not put Stafford on injured reserve out of respect for him and his toughness. Stafford said if he is able, he would still like to play in 2019.

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Jets RB Le’Veon Bell ill, won’t play vs. Dolphins



The New York Jets‘ disappointing season took another bad turn Saturday, as they ruled out running back Le’Veon Bell for Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins.

Bell became ill this week, the team said, and he didn’t practice Thursday and Friday, when he was listed as questionable. Coach Adam Gase didn’t give any specifics as to the nature of the illness.

“He’s sick, probably the same thing that is going around a lot of these other teams,” Gase said. “[The] biggest thing was getting him checked out and then get him out of the building so nobody else gets sick.”

The Jets (4-8) will lean on backups Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery, with Powell to get most of the carries. They also have Josh Adams on the roster.

This will be Bell’s first missed game with the Jets. He had been durable, if not productive. Statistically, this has been the worst season of his career, as he’s rushed for only 589 yards, three touchdowns and a career-low 3.2 average.

Last week was particularly frustrating for Bell, who had only 10 carries in a 22-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

Bell signed a four-year, $52.5 million contract in free agency. He drew interest at the trading deadline, and there’s a chance the Jets could move him in the offseason.

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