Panthers Offseason News and Notes

Jordan Gross

"Getting healthy will help us a ton. We're so banged up - 18 guys on IR -- and that's tough to overcome. We'll get everybody healthy and see where we're at. Free agency will be big for us, and we'll be in position to draft some good players. I think it's only going to be better from here." -- Jordan Gross

Tennis pro John Isner brought a little Panthers flavor to the Australian Open, celebrating a win the way his favorite team does.

The Greensboro, N.C., native (and friend of Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith) punctuated his second-round win over David Nalbandian by pulling at his shirt, simulating Cam Newton's "Superman" routine.

Isner's been a fan for years, but his relationship with Smith has brought him by practices on several occasions. Seeing the 6-9 tennis pro towering a foot over his pal makes it quite the sight.

Speaking of Newton, he's made a good impression by hanging around Charlotte to work out. His rookie season was more impressive because he had no offseason program to speak of. With him spending time here lifting and bonding with teammates, they have high hopes for what's to come.

--New secondary coach Steve Wilks has been gone for a few years, but he should know the area well.

He grew up in Charlotte and starred at West Charlotte High. After a career at nearby Appalachian State, he played for the Arena League's Charlotte Rage during their time here.

--The Panthers have 11 unrestricted free agents, but just three of those were regular starters and none of those are necessarily must-keeps. TE Jeremy Shockey's perhaps the first you'd think of, but with his injury history, age and expense, they may elect to go in another direction. With WR Legedu Naanee and RG Geoff Hangartner, they have potential replacements on injured reserve in David Gettis and Geoff Schwartz, respectively.

--Injured reserve TE Gary Barnidge and T Garry Williams were quietly signed to late-season contract extensions, giving the Panthers cover in the event of free agent departures. Barnidge in particular is a player who has teased with potential.

--The Panthers are short a draft pick come April, but clearly they're OK with the return. They gave up this year's third-rounder to Chicago for TE Greg Olsen in the preseason. Olsen responded with 45 catches for 540 yards and five touchdowns, the kind of production they didn't get from the spot since the Wesley Walls era.

--For all the records the Panthers eclipsed this year, one of the longest was also one of the oldest. Cam Newton's 91-yard TD pass to Brandon LaFell in Week 16 broke the record for longest play from scrimmage, set on an 89-yard pass from Kerry Collins to Willie Green set in their expansion year, 1995.

--The Panthers signed four of their practice squad players to future contracts at the end of the season. They retained G Roger Allen, LB Phillip Dillard, TE Greg Smith and CB Reggie Sullivan.

--As much progress as the Panthers made, going 6-10 was still the fourth-worst record in the franchise's 17-year history. They went 1-15 in 2001, 2-14 in 2010 and 4-12 in 1998, but had been at least 7-9 in every other season. Those first three were the last of the runs of George Seifert, John Fox and Dom Capers, respectively.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Getting healthy will help us a ton. We're so banged up - 18 guys on IR -- and that's tough to overcome. We'll get everybody healthy and see where we're at. Free agency will be big for us, and we'll be in position to draft some good players. I think it's only going to be better from here." -- LT Jordan Gross, on the impact of the injuries that hampered the Panthers this season.

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