NFL notebook

Rivera is choice of Panthers

It’s first head job for Chargers coordinator

Associated Press / January 12, 2011

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The Carolina Panthers have entrusted Ron Rivera with turning around the NFL’s worst team, making the Chargers defensive coordinator the second Latino head coach in NFL history.

Rivera was introduced yesterday. He replaces John Fox, who was let go earlier this month after Carolina went 2-14 in his ninth season.

It’s the first head coaching job for the 49-year-old Rivera, who is of Puerto Rican and Mexican heritage. He joins ex-Raiders and Seahawks boss Tom Flores as the only Latino head coaches.

Rivera has run the Chargers defense since midway through the 2008 season, with San Diego ranking tops in the NFL in total defense and pass defense this season. The ex-Bears linebacker also was defensive coordinator in Chicago from 2004-06.

“I’m thrilled to death for the opportunity. I almost want to say relief,’’ said Rivera. “When you get into playing you strive for one thing, that’s to be a Super Bowl champion. When you get into coaching, you strive to be a Super Bowl-winning head coach. That’s what my goal is.’’

“It gives me comfort that he was a former player,’’ said owner Jerry Richardson, a former Baltimore Colts receiver. “He brings an approach and resume that we believe lends itself to success for our football team and organization.’’

Williams turns down Broncos Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams became the third candidate to spurn the Broncos as they search for a head coach. Rick Dennison, who spent almost a quarter century with the Broncos as a linebacker and an assistant coach, interviewed shortly after Williams withdrew his name from consideration just 24 hours after agreeing to talk about the job. That marked the third time a candidate brushed off the Broncos and John Elway, their new executive vice president of football operations. Last week, Falcons offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey canceled his interview with Denver, and Jim Harbaugh left Stanford for the 49ers without granting Elway an audience. Jacksonville offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter made his pitch for the job after Dennison, and Fox is scheduled to interview today . . . The Browns have interviewed Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell to be their coach. Fewell is the third known candidate to formally meet with Browns president Mike Holmgren, who fired Eric Mangini last week. The Browns have also interviewed St. Louis offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and Mularkey. Philadelphia offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is believed to be a candidate because of his personal and professional connections with Holmgren . . . Rich Bisaccia was hired by the Chargers to coach their special teams. San Diego was plagued by poor play on kick teams all season and let coordinator Steve Crosby go after they finished 9-7. Bisaccia is a former Buccaneers associate head coach and special teams coordinator. He joined the Bucs in 2002 and in his first year won a Super Bowl as Tampa Bay had one of the league’s top special teams units.

Haley may call Chiefs’ plays Chiefs coach Todd Haley could wind up calling plays next year. Haley said he intends to hire a replacement for offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who is leaving to take a similar position at Florida. But Haley also indicated he might take a bigger role in calling plays, which he did in 2009 when he fired offensive coordinator Chan Gailey shortly before the season opener and assumed the position himself. Haley was a successful offensive coordinator at Arizona, helping the Cardinals get to the Super Bowl before he took over in Kansas City in 2009. Asked yesterday if he would consider calling plays next year, Haley said, “I’ll consider anything. But it’s going to be a very thorough evaluation of the entire system.’’ . . . Broncos pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil will be tried April 5 on charges he allegedly assaulted a parking lot attendant at Invesco Field in October. A judge set a trial in Denver County Court after Dumervil pleaded not guilty to charges of assault and disturbing the peace. Dumervil led the league in sacks in 2009 but missed all of last season after tearing a chest muscle in training camp. He has said he got into a minor altercation before the Broncos played the Raiders Oct. 24 when the attendant didn’t let him use the players’ entrance because he wasn’t carrying his proper credential.

Union heads see sticking point NFL union executive committee members Scott Fujita and Domonique Foxworth say concerns about injuries make the league’s push to switch to an 18-game regular season a major sticking point in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. Speaking on a media conference call arranged by the union, Cleveland linebacker Fujita called the NFL’s 18-game proposal “completely unacceptable’’ and “like a slap in the face.’’ Baltimore cornerback Foxworth said the extra regular-season games “is just going to multiply the injuries and the ailments that we’re going to see after we go into our 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s.’’ The current CBA expires in March. Asked if he thinks a lockout is inevitable, Fujita replied: “It certainly looks that way to me.’’

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