The men who devote their lives to professional football are, almost by definition, tough. The challenges of playing this game, teaching it, scouting talent and managing front office complexities, weed out the delicate, the timid and the hyper-sensitive. Yet when the Panthers released veteran quarterback Jake Delhomme in early March, emotions were difficult to conceal, even for some of the crusty warriors who work here.
In life and in athletics, endings are difficult. Happily, though, the vacuum created by the closing of one door pulls another series of doors open.
This Panthers youth movement and careful selection of free agent talent is no fire sale. Instead, it is part of a solid football plan. General manager Marty Hurney knows that unless you are getting younger and faster in this league, you can quickly find yourself in the right hand lane with your flashers on watching other teams blow past you. Being consistently good means building through the draft, and Carolina has a core of gifted young guns from whom much will be expected.
Just how young is this club? Alright, will every player 30 years of age or older please step forward! Let's see now, how many do we have? John Kasay, Steve Smith, Tyler Brayton, Jason Baker. That's it, just four.
Parting company with Delhomme, as well as Brad Hoover, Julius Peppers, Mushin Muhammed, Damione Lewis, Maake Kemoeatu, Na'il Diggs, Chris Harris, Josh McCown and Hollis Thomas means that 94 years of NFL experience just went away. But stepping in to fill the void is a collection of high-octane returning players and an eager, top-fuel draft class.
Who will this team's leaders be? Along with the over-30 set, Jon Beason and Jordan Gross are good candidates, and other leadership voices will surely emerge this summer. In the meantime, continue to spend time on Panthers.com learning about all the fresh faces. Of the 86 players on the current roster, 36 of them are brand new to the Panthers.
And if you start getting nervous wondering if these young pups will be up to the jobs that confront them, just remember the immortal words of hall of fame baseball executive Branch Rickey, who once told his Brooklyn Dodgers, "Gentlemen, I prefer the errors of enthusiasm to the indifference of wisdom."
That statement could easily apply to the new look, younger and faster 2010 Carolina Panthers!
Mick Mixon is the play-by-play voice of the Carolina Panthers.