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Rhule responds to report that Panthers are eyeing Sean Payton

The Carolina Panthers coach said owner David Tepper reached out to assure him "there was nothing to" the report.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On Friday, Carolina Panthers coach Matt Rhule responded to a report that the team was already eyeing Sean Payton as his replacement.

Rhule said owner David Tepper called him to discuss the report, which was published Thursday by Front Office Sports.

"Dave called me and told me that it was going to come out and that there was nothing to it," Rhule said.

Payton coached the New Orleans Saints for 15 years before stepping away after the 2021 season.

He is reportedly set to sign a lucrative deal to broadcast in 2022 but is leaving the door open to return to the sidelines in 2023.

"I know Dave Tepper well enough to know that he wouldn't be talking to another coach right now," Rhule said.

If a team hires Payton in 2023, they would have to compensate the Saints, likely with a first or second round pick, since the Super Bowl-winning coach is still under contract with New Orleans through 2024.

Rhule has had a rough NFL debut since making the jump from a successful college coaching career in 2020.

So far he has a 10-23 record, and in 2022 Carolina went 2-12 after a 3-0 start to the season.

"We went 5-12 last year, I can't expect many stories to be good," Rhule said.

In late April, Tepper broke a year-long media silence and said he supported Rhule.

"When he came to my house two-and-a-half years ago he told me this was a five-year rebuild," Rhule said. "We're not where we want to be and I don't think it's going to take five years. I don't want it to take five years. But those are the words he said to me."

Contact Nick Carboni at ncarboni@wcnc.com and follow him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.