CHARLOTTE -- Securing a routine handoff on second-and-10 is likely not on any player's list of ideal ways to finish a career, but it's a reality running back Travaris Cadet felt that he was close to facing.
"I thought my career was coming to an end. I thought I was done," said Cadet, who got the chance he had hoped for Tuesday when the Panthers signed him.
Cadet had been out of football since the Bills cut him on cutdown day. The Appalachian State product played in nine games for Buffalo in 2017, his last being a Week 16 contest against New England. In the second quarter, Cadet ran up the middle, bounced to his right to the outside and was brought down by a Patriots defender. It was a standard play, but it didn't have a standard result as Cadet severely injured his right leg on the way down.
He was placed on injured reserve, officially beginning a long rehab process - a process that Cadet recalls being a "humbling experience."
"Somebody had to help me take a shower, somebody had to help me on and down the plane," Cadet said. "I went home. I was by myself the first night, falling down the stairs, falling out of the shower. Just miserable, like what did I do to deserve this?"
From that point on, Cadet's full-time job became focusing on his health, both physically and mentally. After earning the right to play in the NFL for six years after going undrafted in 2012, Cadet knew he had to look within to pull himself through.
"I think in those trying times, if you can point the finger at yourself still, I think that's when you grow from it," he shared. "I didn't know where I was gonna go. I didn't know if I was going to be able to come back and be myself."
Rebuilding confidence was just as vital to Cadet's healing process as physical therapy, and he credits a number of sources for helping him.
Cadet played his college football just two hours outside of his new city. He said that his head coach at Appalachian State, Jerry Moore, would often tell the team to "find ways to find courage," both in sports and their personal lives. Keeping that in mind, Cadet cites Moore as a reason why he's climbed his way back into the league.
Cadet also said that he drew inspiration from all-time greats such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Mike Tyson and former teammate and Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Cadet played in New Orleans on two separate occasions.
"I think what separates the greats is the mindset and how they attack every day," Cadet said.
Of the greats Cadet mentioned, only Brees is still active, and the Panthers will get a heavy dose of him in two of their last three regular season games. Cadet has been a part of several wars against the Panthers and, while he was surprised to get the call from a now-former division rival, he says those experiences added to his comfort level with Carolina.
"It's a lot of familiarity in that area, in terms of their approach and the way they bring it and their demeanor," Cadet said. "It was exciting to know that it's something I can go add to and not take from."
Should things continue to go smoothly, Cadet will work his way into a running back rotation that includes Christian McCaffrey, who spent time going over the playbook with Cadet after Tuesday's practice.
"He's pretty impressive in terms of his knowledge of the game," Cadet said of McCaffrey. "Of course, he's got physical attributes that you can see on Sunday and in practice, but to be that young and have that much knowledge is crazy."
Being back in the NFL, let alone with Carolina, is far from what Cadet expected while rehabbing in his home state of Florida. But, now that he's back in his "home away from home" in the Carolinas, he's thankful to be healthy in all facets.
"You got to crawl before you walk, and I'm glad to say I'm motivated again and part of a great team that has a winning record, that has a shot to really do some big things," Cadet said. "I'm just trying to add to that in whatever way, whatever role that may be."
View photos from the Panthers practice leading up to their game against the Lions.