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Ex-Giants bring Super Bowl experience


I'm excited the Panthers were able to bring in two guys with four Super Bowl rings between them. Is there anyone else, besides Smitty, with Super Bowl game time on the roster? – Bradley in Winston-Salem, N.C.

You're obviously referring to linebacker Chase Blackburn and wide receiver Domenik Hixon, who won Super Bowls with the New York Giants following the 2007 and 2011 seasons. Steve Smith was on the Panthers team that lost in Super Bowl XXXVIII, and so was Jordan Gross, who started at right tackle as a rookie that season. In addition, recently acquired wide receiver Ted Ginn played for the San Francisco 49ers in last season's Super Bowl.

You didn't ask, but I also researched the history of the Panthers' coaching staff in the Super Bowl. Nine coaches – more than half the staff – have combined to play and coach in 18 Super Bowls, with head coach Ron Rivera doing both. Three coaches earned Super Bowl rings as players: Rivera with the 1985 Chicago Bears; wide receivers coach Ricky Proehl with the 2000 St. Louis Rams and 2007 Indianapolis Colts; and assistant offensive line coach Ray Brown with the 1991 Washington Redskins. Two coaches earned rings as assistants: offensive line coach John Matsko with the '00 Rams and linebackers coach Al Holcomb with the 2011 New York Giants. Proehl was on the '07 Colts team that beat a Bears team with Rivera and defensive backs coach Steve Wilks on the staff, while Brown was on the '91 Redskins that beat a Buffalo Bills team with assistant special teams coach Bruce DeHaven on the staff.

Hi Bryan, I was wondering why the Panthers linebacking corpes hasn't gotten more credit for how dominant they have been the last two years, especially Luke Kuechly. I think the middle linebacker for the Panthers has led the NFL in tackles the last two years. – Gabriel in Pullman, Wash.

More than anything, it has to do with the win-loss record. The Panthers have finished strong each of the past two seasons, but slow starts took them out of playoff contention early and thus took individual players out of most discussions when it came time for postseason awards. Kuechly leading the NFL in tackles was hard to ignore, of course, and he walked away with NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. The previous year, linebacker James Anderson finished sixth in the NFL in tackles.

I believe the stars are aligned for the Panthers stars at linebacker to gain acclaim in 2013. Thomas Davis is coming off a remarkable season and is in position to concentrate on football rather than rehab during the offseason for the first time since 2009, and Jon Beason was injured early enough last season that he should be at full strength. If the trio can stay healthy, it will be hard to ignore.

Why does it always seem that the Panthers are under such scrutiny for our defense? Pretty sure we finished in the top 15 last year. – Brian in Waynesville, N.C.

See above. The Panthers actually finished 10th in total defense and were downright dominant in late-season victories over the Falcons, Chargers and Raiders, but again those were "meaningless" games from a playoff perspective.

Defenses on winning teams get noticed, even if their numbers aren't as good as the Panthers' numbers were, and that's the challenge for 2013. Despite the stats, the defense didn't come up with game-clinching stops in the first Falcons game, the second Buccaneers game or the Bears game in between. The unit knows it must be better in those situations in 2013.

The 2007 NFL Record & Fact Book says we lost in preseason 2006 to Pittsburgh, but I think we won 15-13. What do you think? – John in Charlotte

Well John, I think you might have one of those valuable misprints on your hands, like those rare 1943 copper pennies that are worth like $100,000. Kidding, of course, though the version of the 2007 record book that we have in the office does properly proclaim that the Panthers did win that game 15-13.

Kicker John Kasay, who retired earlier this week, accounted for all 15 points, capped by a 29-yarder on the game's final play that won it and gave the Panthers their third undefeated preseason in four years.

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