CHARLOTTE -- As any parent will tell you, there isno joy greater than watching your child take his or her first steps.So, you can imagine the pride general manager Marty Hurney, head coachJohn Fox and the rest of the staff who put this team together must feelas some of the newest Panthers take the field for their first playoffgame.
The majority of the players who will line up against theArizona Cardinals on Saturday night weren't with the team during thelast playoff run three years ago and even fewer were in uniform fiveyears ago during the last playoff game at Bank of America Stadium.
"Unbelievable,"said safety rookie Charles Godfrey describing his emotions heading intohis first playoff game as a starter. "I'm going to be fired up. I'mgoing to be jacked. I have a big role to play this week."
Middle linebacker Jon Beason watched the playoffs on television after his rookie season and that was enough for him.
"It's a dream come true; being in this position is what it's all about," said Beason.
Beason is not alone and that type of emotion is not limited to the young but also the young at heart.
"Itdoesn't take any kind of player to get excited about a playoff game,"said wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad, who is about to begin his fifthcareer postseason – and fourth in the last six seasons. "If you've gota pulse, your heart is going to be throbbing for this game."
Recently,the team's veterans took time to talk to the younger players about thedifference between the playoffs and regular season. Fortunately, thestretch run gave them a taste of playing under pressure on a weeklybasis.
"It comes down to every guy who steps on the field," saidthird year player James Anderson. "This is a game where any play can bea big play."