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'It's reunion week' | Dozens of Washington Football Team players, coaches, staff take on former team, Carolina Panthers

Head Coach Ron Rivera brought many of his top guys with him when he came from the Carolina Panthers to Washington. They'll reunite in Sunday's game.

ASHBURN, Va. — In recent years, the Washington Football Team has seen an influx of players, coaches and staff from the Carolina Panthers. In fact, 31 current WFT franchise members called Charlotte home at some time in their professional careers. 

Most prominently, Head Coach Ron Rivera was Carolina's top dog for nine seasons before being fired in 2019. He accepted a job in Washington one month later. This weekend will be the first time Rivera is returning to his old stomping grounds. 

"There's no reason to be bitter," Rivera said regarding his departure from Carolina. "I did the best I could and when it was time to move on, [Carolina's owner] David Tepper treated me with tremendous dignity and respect." 

Rivera's first draft pick as the Panthers head coach was quarterback Cam Newton in 2011. Since then, the two men have always had a special relationship. After Rivera left, the Panthers released Newton in March 2020. But Newtown returned to the team that drafted him on Nov.11 of this year, signing a 1-year deal worth up to $10 million. 

Newton's home debut game will be Sunday in Carolina, against his former coach. 

"Good for Cam," Rivera said. "He hated to lose more than anybody I've ever been around." 

Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke played one year for Rivera in Carolina, as Newton's backup, and said he looks forward to going head to head with his former teammate. 

"Me and him had a great relationship," Heinicke said. "He was a lot of fun to be around. That place is going to be rocking on Sunday. He's like the God of Charlotte, and it will be an exciting game."

Washington wide receiver Terry McLaurin has been joking with his teammates all week about the big reunion. 

"It's the reunion week," he laughed. "But one thing I notice about the guys who came from Carolina that are here now, is that they are just guys that put their head down and they grind."

Rivera said he's trying not to bring too many emotions into this weekend's game, calling it a 'business trip' but did say he enjoys taking a few walks down Carolina's memory lane.

"To be in one spot for a while, that was pretty cool-- it meant a lot," the coach said. "We developed some very good friends and relationships with people we still keep in contact with today. The community involvement that we had was a big deal."

Sunday's Washington v. Carolina game is slated for 1 p.m. kickoff from Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC.

   

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