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Carolina Panthers

Damiere Byrd: "Charlotte has always been my home"

Damiere Byrd

CHARLOTTE — New (and yet, older) Panthers wide receiver Damiere Byrd was reminiscing in the lobby of the team's second-floor offices on Friday, when general manager Scott Fitterer and assistant GM Dan Morgan walked by and began to laugh.

"Did he tell you what he did pre-game to me in Atlanta?" Fitterer said, a note of feigned incredulity in his voice.

Byrd grinned and recalled the conversation with his longtime friend and former (and again, current) teammate Donte Jackson before that game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium last October.

"I said D-Jack, go get Scott for me; tell him I'm trying to come back," Byrd said with a laugh.

"And then you burned us," Morgan said as he walked past Byrd with a shake of his head.

Damiere Byrd

That 47-yard touchdown reception late in the fourth quarter was part of a dramatic final sequence that day, which included the Panthers tying the game with a last-gasp touchdown to DJ Moore, then a missed extra point, which led to a Falcons win in overtime. But neither side let that stand in the way of a move this week that made sense for both sides.

You'd call it a homecoming since Byrd spent his first four NFL seasons here, but he actually never went anywhere. He kept his base in Charlotte while he bounced from the Cardinals to the Patriots to the Bears and then the Falcons, and last fall, he and his fiancé were in the process of buying a home here.

So the chance to come back to his old team seemed natural for him.

"I think it was just a thing that everything aligned," Byrd said. "Charlotte has always been my home. We never really left. No matter where we were, we would always come back here in the offseason. It was kind of aligned.

"I spoke it into existence as much as I could. It feels good to be back. I'm happy to be here."

Still, it's very different around here. Only six players remain from the version Byrd left here after the 2018 season — JJ Jansen, Shaq Thompson, Taylor Moton, Jackson, Ian Thomas, and Marquis Haynes Sr.. There's a new owner, a (second) new coach, and a new GM since he left.

Still, it feels like a fit.

The Panthers needed some depth at receiver and special teams help. Byrd was looking for a new employer, if not some stability. So it felt natural, and as he walked through the stadium on his visit, he saw a lot of familiar faces among the support staff, if not in the locker room. Byrd and Thompson were rookies together and became close, so they've talked about the possibility for years.

"Been a lot of change here, been two different regimes come through since I've been here," Byrd said. "So anything is possible. But being able to be right down the road, and have guys on the team that I knew, and personnel that's been here throughout the building, that helps a lot.

"Me and Shaq have been really good friends; we came in together, so we've been close. He's like my brother. He's known the entire time I was trying to come back, and he knew today I was going to be here today."

But getting here took a bit longer than he might have preferred, though he had a good reason. Free agency's a month old. But Byrd had other plans since he got married three weeks ago, and he and his wife Rebekah just returned from a honeymoon trip to South Africa Tuesday.

So while Fitterer walked past and asked when his flight home was scheduled, Byrd laughed and said: "My car's in the parking lot," ready for that short ride to his new home.

It's not a long ride, about 10 minutes away down a leafy street on a busy day, but it gives Byrd a chance to reflect. The guy who walked in here as a speedy undrafted rookie from South Carolina has changed since the first time he and Thompson walked into this building. Now he's 30, has a different perspective, and spent part of his time during his free agent "visit" talking to some of the draftable rookies who were there meeting with coaches and team officials as well.

"I'm grown now. Completely different," he said. "Eight seasons under my belt, not a rookie trying to figure out his way or find his way. More mature playing the game the way I intended to play when I first got in the league.

"Just been talking to those guys downstairs about their experience, what they've been doing and thinking, and talking to them about the opportunity, and giving them a chance to gain some knowledge before it all kicks off for them.

"Yeah, it was funny, talking to those guys in for visits; I felt way older than what I normally feel. But I mean, really, telling them to enjoy the process. Because you blink, and it's nine years later, and you're trying to find a new team."

It helps when it's an old one, and you already know your way home.

Damiere Byrd re-signed with Carolina in April of 2023. He played for the Panthers previously from 2016-18.

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