The last two days have moved like the dragsters at Lowe's Motor Speedway. It seemed as if everybody in my business was scrambling to report what Julius Peppers was doing or allegedly doing, how the Carolina Panthers were responding or allegedly responding, and what Jordan Gross was thinking or allegedly thinking.
Somebody told me that Jordan said hi. I told the guy to tell Jordan that he made a great moving hiring Larry Brown, and that the better the Charlotte Bobcats play, the less offensive his selection of Adam Morrison becomes.
Of course, there was only one Jordan in Charlotte this week, and that was Gross, not Michael. That's who he was talking about.
Peppers has attracted so much attention that we have treated Gross as if he's nothing more than a conduit. That is, sign the guy so the Panthers can move on to what really matters.
I can imagine the Panthers withouth Peppers, however. I can't imagine them without Gross.
After the 2007 season, the Panthers were single-minded. Their goal was to fix the offensive line and they did. Through the draft, and through excellent free-agent acquisitions such as Keydrick Vincent, they turned a line that had been all right into the team's strongest component. This was a line you can build an offense around, and they did.
The best of those linemen was Gross. If I'm ranking the top five offensive linemen in the league, Gross is not among them. But he's good, he's healthy, he's dependable and his teammates believe in him. He started in the Pro Bowl and he was first-team All-Pro. He's been a starter since he arrived and, at 28, he is in his prime.
As much as the Panthers paid for him -- six years and almost $60 million -- they'll get their money's worth.
There are a few players that you really don't appreciate until they're gone.
Gross would have been one of them.