CHARLOTTE — Ryan Kalil believes the Carolina Panthers will win the Super Bowl this season — and he put his money where his mouth is to prove it.
The Panthers three-time Pro Bowl center took out a full page advertisement in the Charlotte Observer on Wednesday boldly declaring fans will be rewarded for their unwavering support with a “one hundred-percent, sterling silver victory — the Lombardi Trophy. And it reads: Carolina Panthers, Super Bowl XLVII champions.”
That’s a bold prediction, particularly for a team coming off a 6-10 season that hasn’t won a playoff game since 2005.
But Kalil believes in his teammates.
In the 178-word letter to fans, Kalil said something special is happening in Carolina.
“There is a sense of urgency, a winning attitude that I haven’t seen before,” Kalil wrote. “Fans will see it in the way that we play.”
Kalil received support for his decision to go public with his prediction from his teammates, as well as coach Ron Rivera.
“If we don’t have 53 guys with the same attitude walking in that building, then we have to find 53 guys that do,” Rivera said. “What he did is he put how he feels out there. And I think that’s great.”
Rivera didn’t try to downplay Kalil’s comments at all.
“I’m right behind him and I feel the same way,” said Rivera, now in his second season with the Panthers. “In fact, I’m stepping out in front and saying the same thing. This is a group of men that if they understand and work hard and put it on themselves, who knows, the sky can be the limit.”
Panthers linebacker Jon Beason said when he saw ad he snapped a picture on his phone and immediately put it out on Twitter.
“I loved what he did,” Beason said.
Beason said the key this year will be to make big strides on defense, a unit that finished 27th in the league last season.
“Watching what took place last year, especially on the offensive side of the ball, I think we’re really close,” Beason said. “Defense we have to get guys healthy, and I think we have more maturity out there this year, which will help us. I don’t think we can do worse than last year on defense.”
Defensive end Charles Johnson backed Kalil, too.
“I agree with him,” Johnson said. “People don’t say it publicly, but I agree with him. It’s all good with me. We have the potential. We have everything we need to win it.”
Rivera said he doesn’t believe the advertisement puts a target on the Panthers chest.
“No, because everybody else believes the same thing,” Rivera said. “(Kalil) just said it. If you ask all 32 teams, their attitude has to be that. You have to believe that. If you don’t you won’t work as hard as you should.”
Beason said he welcomes the pressure.
“The pressure is great. I love pressure,” Beason said. “A lot of times you are doing what you’re doing and you get comfortable because you get into a routine. So when you get challenged for something, I like that. Pressure is an opportunity to do something great.”
Rivera said he’s been around bold predictions before.
When he was a linebacker with the Chicago Bears, Rivera remembers coach Mike Ditka making a similar comment to his players prior to training camp.
“Mike came in his first year and told everybody `I have good news and bad news. The good news is we’re going to the Super Bowl.
“The bad news is some of you aren’t going,”’ Rivera said.