Strickly Panthers: Gross sees bright future

As a member of the offensive line, always a factor in what the offense does with the football but not always physically close to the football, Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross has a unique perspective on gameday goings-on.

"I thought we played decent on offense, and some young guys made some really big plays," Gross said in the aftermath of last Sunday's 31-16 loss at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "It was a different cast of characters, but not enough obviously."

It often hasn't been enough for the Panthers this season, who will carry a 1-8 record into Sunday's home game against the Baltimore Ravens (6-3).

It would be understandable if Gross, third on the team among non-kickers in NFL games played, were fed up with the current situation.

Instead, the present state of affairs has Gross salivating over the future.

"I hope I'm around here long enough to see the fruits of this season," Gross said. "There are so many young guys getting a ton of experience that they wouldn't get on a lot of other teams. I think it's going to pay off.

"Maybe it's the end of this year, maybe it's next year, but eventually we're going to have a young team with a lot of experience. That's going to be nice."

Gross said he saw a lot of good things in the latest loss. First-year quarterback Jimmy Clausen showing poise. Second-year running back Mike Goodson flashing toughness to go with his obvious speed. Third-year guard Mackenzy Bernadeuax responding positively to a second chance created by injury.

All were a factor along with Gross in an offensive effort that produced the Panthers' best rushing game of the season for the second consecutive week.

"I think it feeds off of last week and just a lot of little things we worked on in practice, getting back to our fundamentals and some of the basic plays we've had success with in the past," Gross said. "The less stuff installed equals more time to rep the plays that are in, and I think that's been good for us with a young team."

It may have been a small step, but sometimes baby steps are necessary with a roster full of youngsters.

A couple of years before Gross debuted in the NFL, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman played his final snap in the NFL, a career that started with a 1-15 record as a rookie but ended with three Super Bowl rings.

"I told (Clausen) after the game, 'It's not always like this,' and I reminded him of Aikman's record as a rookie," Gross said. "Not to make any comparisons there, but I was just saying, 'Everybody doesn't always have it easy.' We don't have it easy right now."

In the bitter end Sunday, when Clausen sustained a concussion and was stymied at the goal line on a pair of quarterback sneaks, Clausen and Gross were among the mass of humanity straining to get the Panthers into the end zone for a touchdown that wouldn't have changed the outcome.

Gross, however, believes that enduring such hard knocks now – both literal and figurative – could change the outcome in the future.

"That's the thing: Guys have never laid down in any of our games, and I think that will pay off at some point," he said. "We've just got to ride through the storm."

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