Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton runs with the ball against the Seattle Seahawks in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
Stephen Brashear
December 05, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Panthers coach Ron Rivera is not worried about losing the faith of his players in the locker room after his decision to bench Cam Newton for the start of Sunday night's game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Rivera said Monday in hindsight he's ''very comfortable'' with his decision to keep the reigning league MVP on the sideline after he failed to wear a tie on the team flight Saturday, as required by team rules.

Derek Anderson replaced Newton in the starting lineup and threw an interception on Carolina's first play from scrimmage. Newton entered the game on the second series, but things continued to spiral downhill and the injury-riddled and struggling Panthers (4-8) lost 40-7.

Rivera said there was no underlying message to Newton because he has enforced similar dress code violations in the past.

''It's not the first time and it probably won't be the last time,'' Rivera said. ''At the end of the day everybody gets treated the same.''

Rivera made the decision to bench Newton on Saturday night when he was unable to come up with a shirt and tie for the team flight to Seattle.

The sixth-year coach was well aware his decision would get a lot of media attention - and generate some criticism - because of his quarterback's high profile, but felt like he had to enforce the team's long-standing rule.

''I knew it was going to be a feeding frenzy - that's just the way it is,'' Rivera said. ''I've addressed it and (Cam) has addressed it. So I'm done with it.''

Carolina players were off on Monday following an early morning flight back from the West coast and were not available for interviews. A huge Carolina fan, Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry called it a "weird situation" but still has all the confidence in his team.

Players for the most part steered clear of addressing Rivera's decision after the game.

Newton took accountability for the mistake after the game, telling reporters, ''Long story short, he has rules in place. In my opinion, it was a lack of communication on my part, especially as a team captain, a person that I feel has his ear. I should have just cleared it first.''

Rivera said the team has five core values set by owner Jerry Richardson - hard work, harmony, teamwork, listen and respect.

''You can be who you are and keep your personality, but you have to try to keep them within the parameters,'' Rivera said.

Carolina, which hosts the Chargers on Sunday, can finish no better than 8-8 this season, meaning its streak of never having put back-to-back winning seasons together since entering the league in 1995 will continue.

Tight end Greg Olsen said Sunday night that this season has been filled with ''humbling experiences'' after a year in which the Panthers bolted to a 14-0 start and reached the Super Bowl before losing to the Denver Broncos.

''We just aren't very good right now, that's just the reality,'' Olsen said. ''That's all anyone should care about. Just win one time, one game. Prepare that way, play that way, play smart, execute, and win one game.''

The Panthers have been ravaged by injuries.

Against Seattle they played without middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, defensive end Mario Addison and safety Kurt Coleman on defense and center Ryan Kalil and left tackle Michael Oher on offense. Kalil and Oher are both on injured reserve and the Panthers are down to the fourth center.

''We all had grand expectations,'' Rivera said of the season. ''Shoot, I really wanted to get back to the Super Bowl and win it. I'm not going to back off that. We still had opportunities but we just didn't capitalize.''

Still, Rivera said the remaining games will be important in terms of evaluating for the future.

''This is a good opportunity to see who we are, see what our character is and see what we can build on,'' Rivera said.

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