(WSCR) Former Bears defensive coordinator and current Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said his departure from the Bears after the 2006 season was simply a football decision.
Reports indicated there was a clash between Rivera and head coach Lovie Smith after the Bears Superbowl run in 2006. The two will meet again as the Panthers travel to Chicago on Sunday in a battle between two 1-2 teams.
Today, however, Rivera said him and Smith have a great relationship.
“Very much so,” Rivera told The McNeil and Spiegel Show on Tuesday. “As I’ve said it before, this was all football. As long as it’s not a personal thing or issue like that, it’s all about football and business. We just go on about our business and do the things we do. I’m looking forward to it. I really am.”
LISTEN: Ron Rivera on The McNeil and Spiegel Show
Rivera, who played linebacker for the 1985 Superbowl champion Bears, admitted facing his former team is still a big deal to him.
“This is Chicago,” he said. “It’s a great city, it’s a great sports town. They were very good to me. I’m not naïve to (think) that they’re going to cheer for me. I know they’re going to boo me and all that good stuff, but I know in my heart of hearts that the town was great to me. I’ll always be grateful to them.”
Before the start of the 2011 season, the Bears traded former first-roud draft pick Greg Olsen to the Panthers for a third-round draft pick — something Rivera said has been a key element to his team’s early offensive success.
“That was one of the things we needed in terms of helping our offense was to get the tight end position solidified,” Rivera said. “When the opportunity came to grab Greg, we were more than willing to make a deal. It’s really been great in terms of what we do offensively. He’s been a tremendous part of developing what we’re doing.”