Franchise-tagged defensive end Greg Hardy’s arrest on domestic violence charges are the most salacious of the headlines in Charlotte.
But they’re far for the only issue the Panthers are dealing with this offseason.
From the retirement of decade-long left tackle Jordan Gross, the cutting the best player in franchise history Steve Smith, the Panthers are going to have a significantly different look, specifically on offense. And that doesn’t even count the offseason ankle surgery which will keep quarterback Cam Newton on the sidelines until training camp.
But there were plenty of other departures big and small (and that’s not just a short-joke at the expense of Captain Munnerlyn), so coach Ron Rivera knows repeating will be difficult.
“We had to make some very tough decisions going into free agency, very tough decisions going into the draft, and we’re going to have to cope with them,” Rivera said Friday, via Bill Voth of Black and Blue Review.
“It’s been an interesting offseason. When we first got into the season, a very wise sage [team director of dommunications] Charlie Dayton told me ‘It’s going to bring a whole new set of problems.’ So we just handle them and deal with them as they come forward.”
Rivera handled the Hardy questions in a predictable way, saying each time he was asked: “I can’t comment on that because it’s pending.”
Rivera would only say “Greg’s a heck of a young man,” but the specter of their franchise player’s arrest hangs over guys who haven’t met him.
“When we first got here, they told us ‘it’s a different level now, so anything you do, everybody’s watching.’ So you definitely have to take heed to it and just act appropriately,” rookie defensive end Kony Ealy said.
And the Panthers will have to adjust accordingly, to a number of issues.