When Muhsin Muhammad left the Carolina Panthers in 2004, the team knew it would be tough to replace him.
They didn't know just how tough.
That's one of the reasons the Panthers quickly snatched up Muhammad, even at age 35, when he was released by the Chicago Bears.
"We never really filled that role once he left," coach John Fox said.
With Steve Smith on the sidelines after going down with a season-ending ending leg injury, Muhammad stepped up in 2004 as the No. 1 receiver and caught 16 touchdown passes from Jake Delhomme. He used that season to cash in on a big contract the next year with the Chicago Bears.
Now he's back in Carolina and the Panthers hope he can ignite the Panthers' offense once again.
"I never was a guy with some blazing speed. I never had the speed like Randy Moss or Smitty," Muhammad said. "My game is all about technique and I think that is what keeps you in the league longer when you do get up there in age. If you are a guy who is fundamentally sound, you have great technique, run great routes and you know how to go get the ball, well, that is what this game is all about -- being in the right places at the right times and making the plays."
Judging by the way Muhammad looked in minicamp, there's been no visible signs of any dropoff in his play. He said he feels great and hasn't even begun to think about retirement despite being at an age when most have already exited football.
"My wife told me to keep rolling until the wheels fall off," Muhammad said with a laugh. "And my wheels are real tight right now, so I'm still playing."
Muhammad said his competitive edge is what keeps him going.
"Every time I come out here on the field I have an attitude to get better," Muhammad said. "I'm not just coming through the motions. I'm out here to get better and I think that kind of attitude filters off to the other guys."
Muhammad, lest we forget, is still in a bit of a learning mode.
The Panthers have switched offensive coordinators since Muhammad departed in 2004, going from Dan Henning to Jeff Davidson. Still, he said there are enough similarities that it hasn't been too difficult to catch on.
"It's been coming along good," Muhammad said. "Learning the plays are kind of like riding a bike. After you haven't ridden one for awhile it's about getting back on getting my wheels spinning. Pretty soon you are out there popping wheelies and riding with no hands. So I'm working my way up to that."