SANTA CLARA, Calif. — San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been a backup before and now that he’s No. 2 on the depth chart again, he’s biding his time for the next chance to play.
After that game in San Diego, Kaepernick pledged to donate the first $1 million he makes this season toward helping organizations he believes can make a difference. He said Wednesday that he’ll also donate the proceeds from the sales of his jersey to those same causes.
As Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said, “This is not the Super Bowl.” The Panthers aren’t approaching this as a game for revenge or redemption for their 24-10 loss in Super Bowl 50. They have moved on.
Much of the credit for that goes to coach Ron Rivera, who spent the offseason preparing his team to avoid a “Super Bowl hangover.” In case you’ve missed it, since the 1992-93 Buffalo Bills, no team that lost the title game has returned the following year. Rivera has talked to everyone from John Madden to a retired admiral for advice. The message has been received loud and clear by his players.
The focus, as cliché as it sounds, is to win the next game. This is the next game, and minus Pro Bowl cornerback Josh Norman, Carolina has back most of the team that went 15-1 in the 2015 regular season.
Kelvin Benjamin. As good as the Panthers were offensively last season, they didn’t have their No. 1 receiver. Benjamin, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound target, will help bail Cam Newton out of trouble when he needs to complete tough passes over the middle to keep the chains moving. As Denver linebacker Von Miller said, Benjamin is Newton’s “safety blanket.” Benjamin’s presence will make it tougher for the Broncos to take Olsen out of the game, as they did in the Super Bowl. He’ll also create opportunities for second-year wide receiver Devin Funchess, who is light years ahead of where he was a season ago.
Norman has been a focal point ever since he signed with Washington in the spring, following Carolina’s decision to rescind the franchise tag it had placed on him. Part of it stems from his contract, worth $15 million a year, the highest for a corner. He has been in headlines for his matchup with Odell Beckham Jr., based on what happened last year and because they play twice this season.
“I’m ready to leave that all behind me,” he said. “I really don’t want to talk about it much. I tried to block it out and try to focus on football — what’s important. I know I didn’t do anything wrong.
“We were very confident since Day 1. I wasn’t really worried that much. I was really focused on ball and let my lawyers and representatives handle the rest.”