Ron Rivera and Cam Newton spent nine years together in Carolina. They had tremendous success together, winning four NFC South titles -- highlighted by a 15-1 record and Super Bowl appearance in 2015, the same season Newton was named the league's Most Valuable Player.
This Sunday, Rivera and Newton meet again. But this time -- and for the first time -- it's as opponents. The matchup has all the makings of a Hollywood script: Rivera, now Washington's boss, makes his highly-anticipated return to Carolina, one that coincides with Newton's first game back at Bank of America Stadium since the Panthers signed him back last week.
Newton isn't interested in any of the theatrics, though. On Thursday, the quarterback downplayed what Sunday's game means for both him and Rivera.
"It's not about us. It's not about me, it's not about him," Newton said. "He knows how I feel about him. And, he knows what it's going to be on Sunday."
Newton -- who took the podium wearing a shirt reading "We back," a spin-off of his touchdown celebration last week when he took off his helmet and yelled the words "I'm back" -- made it clear that he wants Sunday's game to be about Carolina vs. Washington, not him playing against his former longtime coach.
"I refuse for the narrative to be about two people when it's about 106 people," Newton said, referring to the 53 players on each sideline. "We've just got to be ready to rock and roll."
During his roughly 15-minute media session, Newton was reminded at one point of how Rivera let the quarterback be himself, and show his true personality when the two were together in Carolina.
When asked how important that was to him, Newton said he appreciated it but quickly flipped the subject back to Sunday's game being about two teams, not two people.
"It was great. But this is not about me. This is not even about a coach," Newton said. "I know he understands that there is respect, but we're trying to get 1-0 by any means."
Earlier this week, Rivera was asked about Newton and offered a lot more about their relationship than what the quarterback spoke about on Thursday. Rivera reflected about the first time he met Newton and his family in-person prior to the 2011 NFL Draft, praised Newton's competitive spirit and willingness to put his body on the line and play through injuries for the team.
"There [were] a lot of cool moments," Rivera said.
Rivera also detailed why Washington chose not to sign Newton when he was a free agent last summer, as the head coach said he wanted to start fresh with his new team and go in a different direction.
"If it was possible to emulate everything that we did there, I would have, but I just felt that this was an opportunity for us that we were going completely different," Rivera said. "This was going to be a young team, a bunch of young players which is what we're trying to do."
What's in the past is in the past, though. Newton made it clear on Thursday that he's only focused on one thing: getting a win for the Panthers on Sunday.
"We need to bring the pride back to Carolina," Newton said. "We're sitting at .500, there is nothing more important than this game right now. We're just trying to be 1-0 by the end of Sunday."