CHARLOTTE – Chase Blackburn wasn't sure what was going to happen.
"Uncertainty," he said, "is always a little bit of a burden."
Carolina's special teams coordinator for the past two seasons was on an expiring contract and Matt Rhule was coming in from Baylor to run the show. But rather than explore other opportunities elsewhere, Blackburn went through the interview process with Rhule to see if it was a fit.
"Overall, the process went very well," said Blackburn. "Having a brief history with Coach Rhule in New York (Blackburn was a linebacker when Rhule was assistant O-line coach for the Giants in 2012) helped to get the ball rolling. I really respected the way he went about it. He took his time and wanted to make sure he got the right guys in."
Rhule ultimately determined Blackburn was the right person for the job. He'll continue as Carolina's special teams coordinator in 2020.
"He made it a point to tell me, 'I'm hiring you as part of my staff. You are not being retained. You are not a holdover,'" Blackburn said. "The best thing I heard in the whole process was I was getting a chance to interview just like any other incoming guy. And I was being hired, not retained. That's reassuring for me and my family. We know we're wanted. That's the biggest thing.
"I come out of it having a really good sense for who he is and how we're going to build it. We're aligned in our process."
Blackburn is naturally an excitable guy, but that said, you can tell he's really fired up about getting a chance to work on Rhule's staff.
"He has that command and ability to lead," Blackburn said. "And he has his own way of operating. Things are going to change. But he has such a good outlook on what he demands and how he sees it. The communication is very clear and concise. He's very process driven, very goal oriented and he has a lot of energy. Guys are going to respond to him."
As a special teams coordinator, and as a former player who carved out a role as a core special teams guy, Blackburn appreciates any head coach who values the importance of the so-called third phase.
"I don't think you can have a great team," Rhule said recently, "if you are not great on special teams."
And to be blunt, the Panthers have to be better on special teams going forward. After a strong start to the season, Carolina finished 28th in the 2019 overall special teams rankings, provided annually by Rick Gosselin.
"It's going to be held to a high standard," Blackburn said. "In my conversations with Coach Rhule, (special teams) is of great importance, and it's refreshing the way he attacks it.
"We've talked about things we need to get us help. We've talked about what our roster is going to look like, how our practices are going to be structured, assistants helping in every phase. The value of it and structure of it is going to be really beneficial to myself and ultimately to the team."