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Legends roll out for Back Together Saturday

Chris Gamble, Charles Johnson

SPARTANBURG — The Panthers put the throwback in Back Together Saturday, as a number of team legends were on hand to watch the practice in Wofford's Gibbs Stadium.

Having former players around isn't necessarily anything new this year, as head coach Frank Reich had plenty of them come in during OTAs and minicamp; along with the ones who live in the area who just drop by from time to time, like Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly.

But Saturday was different in terms of sheer volume, as cornerback Chris Gamble, defensive ends Charles Johnson, Mike Rucker, and Al Wallace were on hand, along with former wide receiver Ricky Proehl and the original long snapper, Mark Rodenhauser.

That doesn't even include former wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., who was here working for NFL Network.

"It's always like family," Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson said. "It's an honor to see these legends of Carolina before us come back and support us on a special day.

"It just shows they're still a part of this organization, and they still care about them. And they want to see us do well."

At one point early in practice, Rucker, Johnson, and Gamble were hanging out with assistant GM Dan Morgan, reuniting four members of the 2007 defense in one spot.

Current Panthers cornerback Jaycee Horn caught up with Gamble before practice. He remembers watching his father, Joe Horn, go up against Gamble in the mid-2000s in those NFC South battles, so he took the chance to catch up with the previous first-round cornerback in franchise history.

"Yeah yeah yeah, for sure. Dad played in the league, so I watched a lot of football," Horn said when asked if he remembered Gamble. "I got a chance to chop it up with him before practice. We've got similar body types. He's a tall guy, long, and he was able to chop it up with me, give me a few tips.

"It's always good to connect with the alumni because they know what it's like to be in this position."

During practice, Rodenhauser (who has dropped 60 pounds since his playing days and now works for the York County Sheriff's Office) caught up with the guy who now holds his job, meeting JJ Jansen for the first time. That put the 1995 long snapper together with the guy who holds the franchise record for games played (226 and counting), representing the scope of team history at the position.

With Reich and original coach Dom Capers on staff now, there's a strong vibe of nostalgia anyway, but keeping the former players close has become a priority.

Gamble said he's in the process of moving back to Charlotte from South Florida and loves the fact he can come out and talk to players like Horn and take it all in.

"It feels good to be back, just being out here in front of this crowd, smelling the grass, seeing football," Gamble said. "It makes me feel like I could get out there and play."

Charles Johnson, Ricky Proehl, Mark Rodenhauser, Chris Gamble, Mike Rucker.

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