Reporters got a look at the Panthers’ leadership transition last week when the team trotted out three players for interviews at the start of the offseason workout program.

During the season, media members have access to the locker room and are free to approach and talk with any player.

But last week the team’s public relations staff picked who would come to the newly renovated interview room – made over with brighter lights and stadium seating – to discuss the Panthers’ offseason moves.

They chose Cam Newton, Luke Kuechly and Ryan Kalil.

All seem obvious choices: Each was a captain last season and made the Pro Bowl.

But in past years, this sort of media responsibility would have fallen to Steve Smith and Jordan Gross, formerly the team’s two longest-tenured players who served as the de-facto spokesmen for the locker room.

When the Panthers cut Smith, they did so in part to turn over the leadership and bring in veteran receivers that – in management’s opinion – would be more receptive to grooming young wideouts.

Newton, in particular, might have been reluctant to take on too much of a leadership role in the strong presence of Smith and Gross on the offensive side of the room. Kuechly also was willing to defer to veterans, such as Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, his first two seasons.

Davis, a captain for the past three seasons, is among a core group of leaders in addition to the aforementioned Kalil, Kuechly and Newton. Davis is more vocal than Kuechly and someone who has the respect of both players and the front office.

Defensive end Charles Johnson is a quiet guy, but sets the tone for a talented defensive front with his lunch pail mentality. Tight end Greg Olsen hasn’t been a captain yet, but should be.

Kalil, entering his eighth season, said his appearance Tuesday was his first in the interview room, renovated or otherwise.

The roster turnover the past six weeks will give other players a chance to emerge as leaders, including some of the new ones. The newcomers already have injected something else, according to Kalil.


During the conditioning drills that started last week, Kalil noticed an edge to the workouts that had been missing in previous Aprils.