CHARLOTTE -- Kevin Greene fired a preemptive strike Wednesday at disinterested Carolina fans, urging them to show up Sunday to watch the struggling Panthers play the lowly Philadelphia Eagles.
Carolina has sold out every game in its four seasons at 73,250-seat Ericsson Stadium, but the number of no-shows has increased as the Panthers have fallen on hard times the past two-plus years.
The team said 8,928 ticketholders didn't bother to show up for Carolina's most recent home game, a 24-9 loss to Detroit on Oct. 24. Greene wants to prevent a similar expression of apathy at the turnstiles this week when Philadelphia (2-6) visits Carolina (2-5).
"We need all the fans who have tickets to come to this game," he said. "When the Panthers' defense is on the field, the fans need to be rocking and rolling. We need that 12th man."
Not all of his teammates were as adamant as Greene, the 37-year-old linebacker who used to be among the NFL's most-feared pass rushers but now goes weeks at a time between getting his hands on quarterbacks. He is on pace for his lowest sack total since 1991.
Greene isn't the only Carolina player whose numbers are down, and as cornerback Eric Davis said, fans are registering their reaction by not coming to the stadium on game days.
"If you go to a movie and don't like the movie, you leave," Davis said. "It's a performance. People are there to see a show, and they want to be happy about the particular show that they're seeing. If they're not happy, they're leaving. If you want them to stay, win."
The Panthers haven't been doing much of that lately. Carolina hasn't been at the .500 mark since December 1997, and the Panthers have found the going especially difficult at home.
Carolina opened its new stadium by going 9-0 at Ericsson in 1996, but since then, the Panthers have been on a downward spiral. They went 2-6 at home in 1997 and 1998, and they've lost two of three in Ericsson this year.
By the Panthers' count, there have been a combined 29,898 no-shows at home this season -- an average of 9,966 per game.
The fans who have come to the stadium have been quick to voice their displeasure, cascading the Panthers with boos and unsolicited advice at the first sign of problems.
Carolina hasn't often helped its own cause, as evidenced during the Detroit game when the Panthers got to the Detroit 3 or closer five times, only to come away with just three field goals.
"We need to make plays," Davis said. "Give them something to cheer about if you want them cheering. If you don't want them to boo, don't give them anything to boo about. They're just voicing their opinion. They've got the right to do so. They bought the ticket."
Quarterback Steve Beuerlein offered a similar sentiment.
"It's a two-way street," he said. "We can sit here and say we expect them to come out and support us. And they can sit there and say they expect us as a team to go out and put a better product on the field and give them something to get excited about."
Beuerlein said it's unrealistic for the Panthers to expect a full house of vocal supporters unless the team improves.
"But at the same time there are a lot of other places in this league where the teams have been down for a long time but the fans still come out and support them every week," he said. "So you can make a case for it any way you want to. But the bottom line is we have to go out and play better. If they want to jump in now or later, it's their prerogative."
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