Strickly Panthers: Null, Martin reunited

CHARLOTTE – Before the Panthers' trip to Seattle on Friday, when quarterback Keith Null was a member of the practice squad, Null's locker was located in the auxiliary section of the locker room.

Upon Null's return to Bank of America Stadium, as a new member of the active roster, his locker had been moved to the main locker room – beside a familiar face.

Null and wide receiver Charly Martin are now next to each other, making it easy for them to catch up on old times. They played together for four seasons at West Texas A&M -- where Null set school records for passing yards, passing touchdowns and completion percentage, and Martin set records for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

"My main target the whole time I was there," Null said of Martin, who is on injured reserve. "It's pretty nuts."

It is quite amazing that two guys from the same Division II school would end up beside each other in an NFL locker room, but it might not be quite as crazy as you might think.

West Texas A&M actually has three other players currently in the NFL: Washington Redskins wide receiver Anthony Armstrong, St. Louis Rams defensive end Eugene Sims and Chicago Bears offensive tackle J'Marcus Webb.

And when the school was known as West Texas State and competed in Division I, its football roster once included running back Mercury Morris, a key member of the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins.

But even though their alma mater has a richer football history than many realize, Null and Martin still are struck by their luck.

"We talk about it almost every day, saying, 'Isn't this crazy? We have a locker by each other now?'"  Null said. "For us to be on the same team, it is crazy."


FIELD CONDITIONS: When the Panthers host the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, the end zones will look different than the last time the Panthers played a home game.

The end zones were outfitted with Virginia Tech and Florida State colors for the ACC Championship Game last Saturday, so on Sunday they will feature a painted black background rather than a natural grass background.

The task of getting the turf ready for the Panthers' return is easier than the job that stadium personnel faced last week, when NFL-related logos were replaced by ACC-related logos in five spots. Before the ACC game, workers had to remove turf that in some spots had roots as deep as 10 inches, but this week they're just rolling up the turf that was installed last week to switch out the logos.

They did, however, have two weeks to get ready for the ACC game versus just one week for the Panthers' return.


DIVIDED DIVISION: The Falcons will arrive in Charlotte as the leaders of the NFC South, trying to extend an interesting streak.

Since NFL realignment before the 2002 season gave birth to the NFC South, no team has won the division title two years in a row.

New Orleans, currently one game behind the Falcons, still has a shot at repeating, but from a historical perspective, the Falcons are the ones playing catch-up: Tampa Bay has won the division three times, Carolina and New Orleans have won it twice, and Atlanta has won it once.


DUBIOUS DOUBLE DIGITS: The 2002 season launched both the NFC South and John Fox's head coaching career with the Panthers. Entering this season, just four NFL teams had avoided a double-digit loss season since 2002.

The Panthers ranked as one of the four – and as the only NFC team -- but at 1-11, their streak is over. They could well, however, have some company.

The Denver Broncos last lost 10 or more games in 1999, but they're 3-9 with four games remaining. The Indianapolis Colts last lost double-digit games in 1999 but at 6-6 still are officially in danger, though they'd have to lose out.

The one team guaranteed to continue the streak is the 10-2 New England Patriots, who last lost 10 or more games in 2000.

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