The Panthers lost another great guy, and good player, in Brad Hoover. Although he played fullback for Carolina, he grew up a running back, and running with the ball was his true love. The instincts he developed as a runner helped him as a blocker. He would anticipate where a back would go and get there first, knocking defenders around and creating space.
Hoover is a country guy, regular guy, who came in undrafted and had a nice carer. He was gracious, and honest, and a necessary stop for the media every time we hit the locker room.
On a team flight back from the Arizona game last season, lineman Jordan Gross grabbed a microphone, got on the intercom and did a long, and those in the plane say hilarious, Hoover imitation.
There's nothing hilarious about Brad's release, however. Like almost everybody else whom the Panthers have dumped, there's a younger player on the roster who plays the same position.
The purge of veterans has made Carolina leaner and younger, and it's made the Panthers lesser. It will be fascinating to see what comes next, because something has to.
If all you want from the athletes whose jerseys you wear and autographs you seek are numbers, then you probably celebrated when you read that the Panthers cut Jake Delhomme. He wasn't very good last season.
But if you want a guy who played hard and hurt, set every passing record the franchise has and refused to blame TV-star commentator receivers who made him look bad when they cut off their route early, then you'll miss Jake.
I will. No matter how much longer I do this, he'll be one of my favorite athletes. I didn't have to spend time with him and write about him. I got to.
He was a quarterback who led his team to two NFC championships and one Super Bowl. He was a leader who believed so strongly that the players around him had no choice but to believe, too. We all remember the touchdown passes in his Carolina debut against Jacksonville -- we forget the interceptions.
That was Jake. Jake took chances. And those of you whose memories go back all the way to 2008 will remember that most of them succeeded.
He was fun to watch, fun to write about and fun to get to know. Nothing he did ever suggested that he was a starting quarterback and you weren't. He routinely and quietly accomplished so much that we didn't write about because he didn't want us to know about it -- the hospital visits, the courtesies and the constant class.
A Panther employee recalled Friday a visit Jake made to a dying woman and was moved to tears.
Last summer, a week after I could finally walk all by myself from one end of the house to the other, I went to Carolina's training camp. I was coming off radiation treatment and chemotherapy for the cancer I had removed in April.
I had nothing. I always figure I can will myself to do things, and I'm often wrong. But if I don't believe, who will?
One day at camp, a typical Spartanburg morning in which the temperature was 104 in the shade, if there had been shade, the quarterbacks finished their drill in the middle of the field.
The other quarterbacks made the smart move and hustled to the tent for water. Jake jogged over to the fence I stood behind and leaned against, squarely in the sun. He offered his hand, told me he had just heard that I had been sick and asked me if I was OK.
This was during a brief break in practice; he was sweating like a sumo wrestler. He needed water.
Yet, he cared enough to walk over. I didn't have the energy to talk but he didn't leave until I told him that, yeah, I was OK.
It was a little thing, a small gesture. But it was telling.
It was Jake.
He was like that to everybody. He leaves a legacy that will endure long after the frustrations of 2009 fade.
Jake never thought that his job made him special.
He was right.
He would have been special no matter what he did.
Danny Morrison, the president of the Carolina Panthers, was the featured speaker at the Panthers breakfast Thursday sponsored by the Charlotte Business Journal.
I don't go to many breakfasts. All I need is cold cereal with fruit, a glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee. And a newspaper. I'm biased, but I can't fathom waking up without a newspaper.
I'm not a businessman, however, and I rarely wear a suit. People who put on a suit first thing in the morning probably need a place to go. Sitting at home, eating cold cereal while wearing a suit, can't feel right. So at 7:30 a.m. Thursday they gathered downtown at the Hilton to listen to Morrison. Since I was invited, I joined them.
Morrison is a nice guy, respectful and unpretentious. According to somebody who knows him well, he works harder than anybody in the organization -- and that would apply to any organization, the man says.
The high point of his talk came in the question-and-answer session that followed his presentation. A man told him that his 10-year-old son cried after losses -- Morrison said the Panthers also did -- and wondered if the team would hire quarterback Michael Vick.
Morrison began to answer the question. And then Charlie Dayton, the team's director of communications, quickly and quietly left his table. Dayton is an avid tennis player, and it showed. With an NBA-worthy first step, he sped to the lecturn and told Morrison there were rules against talking about a player under contract to another team. Vick works for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Morrison smoothly said he was not allowed to answer the question, made a joke, and moved on.
But there was drama, and drama before 9 a.m. is usually good.
I was going to pour another cup of coffee, but now I didn't need it. I was fully awake.
I do more by 9 a.m. than some sportswriters do all day.
I'd love to see Michael Vick play for the Carolina Panthers. And please, no angry email this time. Every dog-lover in the Carolinas emailed after I wrote during training camp last summer that Vick would fit the Panthers nicely. And I answered each of you, the first month. Then I moved on.
I checked with my rescued greyhound before I wrote this blog, and he said he was fine with it. When he taps the floor three times with his front right paw, that means, "I'm fine with it."
Vick told an Atlanta station that if he could play for anybody, it would be Carolina.
He would make an interesting change of pace. But he will never be a superior starter. Jake Delhomme and Matt Moore will compete for the starting job. Vick would be a change-of-pace. He'd run a few plays and maybe a few series. If he's good, and the others are not, maybe he gets a start.
But he didn't do anything his last two seasons in Atlanta, or in his '09 guest gig with Philadelphia, that suggests he is capable of leading an NFL team.
Defenses figured him out. HIs coaches in Atlanta wanted him to run less. His friends told him to ignore the coaches and run more. So he ran more. Opponents created opportunities to hit him. They beat on him. He's not a big guy. As the game wore on, he wore down.
Vick does need to roll out, however, because he has never been an accurate passer. Having a big arm, and making the ball go where you want, are not the same.
I don't know who starts for Carolina next season. There was nothing wrong physically with Delhomme in '09. You don't want to hear this, but I suspect that if he regains his confidence, he will compete for the starting job.
No matter who the starter is, the Panthers need a third quarterback. Maybe they draft one. Maybe they find one.
I can't imagine it will be Vick. Although ESPN reported last summer that Carolina was a likely destination, the Panthers had no interest.
What's happened in the last seven months to make them change their minds?
I'm not a hockey guy. I enjoy watching the Charlotte Checkers, but I haven't watched an NHL game on TV, regular season or playoffs, for years.
I did, however, find Sunday's gold medal Olympic game between Canada and the U.S. absolutely compelling. You didn't have to be a fan to know that the game was huge and that both teams were giving everything, including the sacrifice of their bodies to stop a speeding puck, to win.
I don't know if it was the best hockey game ever played but it was the best hockey game I've ever seen, and I've seen two Stanley Cup games live as well as the Minnesota high school tournament, which is a big deal up there.
I get angry email from readers who can't fathom why I'm not a fan of hockey. They're often angry that I'm not. I can't fathom why they care.
I like boxing. I like blues. I think Led Zeppelin is the greatest band of all time, and that Otis Redding's "Dock of the Bay" is the best song.
I don't care if you agree. Of course I love to run into people who know boxing and the blues -- which reminds me that Willie Dixon, a bluesman, also boxed professionally but found the sport too corrupt -- but if somebody prefers hockey and bluegrass, I'm not offended.
The Winter Olympics were a great escape for me and many others. I tapped into the curling underground and really enjoyed the sport, even though I don't know all the rules. I might make a run at the U.S. curling team in 2014 because I want to go Russia. But there's a chance I will not.
The Olympics lasted just the right amount of time. And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming, and perhaps even some hockey.