Jun 11, 2009
It was an ugly end for the Carolina Panthers in January. A disappointing playoff loss to the Cardinals left fans wondering if Jake Delhomme could cut it quarterback. Soon after the team's star defensive player says he wants to leave.
But optimism remains high in the locker room. Even with uncertainty looming, left tackle Jordan Gross feels better days are ahead for the Panthers.
"The good news is that isn't our last hurrah with this group of guys," Gross told 99.9FM The Fan ESPN Radio on Thursday. "We didn't lose that many major parts of the puzzle and I think we have the opportunity to be a better team this year than we were last."
One of the most critical pieces of that puzzle from last year is four-time pro bowl selection Julius Peppers. The defensive end has been slapped with the franchise tag after making it known early in the off-season that he didn't want a long term deal in Carolina and wanted to "reach his full potential" with another team.
Peppers has been a no-show to all of the team's summer school sessions the last two weeks and could hold out of training camp as well. He has yet to sign his one year tender that will pay him $16.7 million. But even a high profile contract dispute like Peppers' doesn't consume the locker room that much.
"It comes up but I would definitely say it's not a distraction," Gross said. "With Pep, he's the kind of guy that can shoe up at the end of training camp and get a preseason game in and then have an all-star year. No one is really too upset or worried about it and most of us just want him to be back."
The quarterback position was a major issue in Carolina after the aging Delhomme committed six turnovers in the playoff loss to Arizona. To some people's surprise Delhomme then landed a five-year extension worth $42.5 million. The 34 year old is now under contract until 2014. But the 2008 pro bowl selection wants him under center.
"Oh yeah he's great, and I've said that ever since I've been playing," Gross said. "He's just a special guy I think that he's made the most out of his talent and potential, and he works hard in the weight room to get better. I think that shows me how much he still wants to prove.....he's just an all-around outstanding quarterback."
The 28 year-old tackle is sticking around in Carolina for sometime himself. In February Gross inked a deal for six-years and $60 million and he sees the Panthers as a team he could stay with the rest of his career.
"Yeah I've said that even before I signed that this is the best place in the NFL as far as quality of life and quality or organization and ownership all the way down to the coaches.