Losing to the Atlanta Falcons to open the Carolina Panthers' season apparently caused owner Jerry Richardson to blow his top.
According to The Charlotte Observer, Richardson called an unusual team meeting of players and coaches the day after and delivered a diatribe that questioned his players' focus and his own off-season spending plans.
Players and coaches were scattered throughout Ericsson Stadium's meeting rooms during the afternoon of Sept. 7, meeting in individual position groups, when word spread that Richardson wanted to meet with them in the team auditorium.
Sources said ichardson deplored his team's effort, saying he had spent too much money in free agency to accept such a poor performance. He vowed to not accept similar play, especially after handing out $28 million in signing bonuses to bring in defensive end Sean Gilbert, cornerback Doug Evans, outside linebacker Kevin Greene, safety Brent Alexander, fullback William Floyd and offensive lineman Corbin Lacina.
The meeting is just another blow to the chemistry that helped carry Carolina to the NFC Championship game two years ago against this Sunday's opponent, Green Bay.
Racial comments by quarterback Kerry Collins a year ago developed a serious chasm that split team unity during its 7-9 season. Now comes a frustrated owner, lashing out at his players after losing to a division rival at home to start the year.
Many players felt Richardson's comments were inappropriate, though none wanted to discuss it. The bitter pill proved difficult to swallow, as the Panthers lost the next week to New Orleans by an identical 19-14 score.
With the Packers coming to Charlotte, the Panthers are primed for an 0-3 start.
Lamar Lathon is lost for the season, meaning once-menacing Greg Lloyd returns to the starting lineup at right outside linebacker.
Lloyd, a five-time Pro Bowler and among the Pittsburgh Steelers' all-time sack leaders, found himself jobless this summer when the Steelers cut him and his $2.8 million salary after consecutive seasons of enduring career-threatening injuries.
"This is a meat business," Lloyd said. "We're no more than cattle. You're talking to me today, and tomorrow there will be somebody else sitting in this locker.
"As long as I can get the job done, I'm here. But when I can't get it done anymore, it's like, `Next guy.' It doesn't matter if you put in 10, 11, 12 years. It doesn't matter. There's nobody to pat you on the back and say, `Good job.' It's just, `Hey, can't use you no more, goodbye.' That's what we have to deal with as players. That's probably the toughest part of the business, the insecurity when it comes to that."
The 33-year-old signed a $500,000 one-year contract to back up Greene and Lathon this season. Now the insurance policy needs to be cashed in after Lathon underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last week and was placed on injured reserve for the season.
Lloyd will line up on first and second downs at Lathon's position, with Micheal Barrow moving from inside to outside on third down. Kinnon Tatum will take Barrow's place inside.
The defense, considered a strength, is dropping more bodies. Other defensive injuries include losing safety Mike Minter for six to eight weeks with an infection in his left knee. The Panthers have lost defensive linemen Shawn King and Chuck Wiley for the season, and receiver Rae Carruth for four to six weeks with a broken right foot.
"This is one of those years," coach Dom Capers said. "This is my 15th year in pro football, and this is probably as many injuries as I've been around."
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