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Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Revealed at last: Dancing with the "big wolf''

By Pat Yasinskas

Now that Kris Jenkins has retired and John Fox is long gone as the head coach in Carolina, there’s a classic Panthers’ story that finally can be told.

It’s been talked about by team employees, coaches and players for years, but had always remained behind the scenes -- until now.

It happened during Carolina’s 2003 Super Bowl season. It was Halloween week in New Orleans and Jenkins, who was one of the team’s more playful characters, went shopping on Bourbon Street the Saturday before the game. For some reason he decided to buy a mask, but it wasn’t just any ordinary mask.

It was a mask the same shape, size and coloring as the head of a wolf.

Jenkins brought it back to the team hotel and planned to take it home to Charlotte the next night. As the night went on, Jenkins decided he wanted to have some fun with the mask that night.

Former strength and conditioning coach Jerry Simmons was the man responsible for checking to see all the players were in bed by curfew. He had a key to each room and would go in to check there were bodies in each bad.

Jenkins, who could be quite charming when in the right mood, begged Simmons, a man with a pretty good sense of humor, to let him tag along on the first few bed checks -- of course, wearing his mask.

They got to the room of running back Stephen Davis, who was sound asleep. Wearing the mask, Jenkins, who was listed at 335 pounds most of his career but often was closer to 350, climbed on Davis’ bed and began jumping up and down.

Davis was so startled that it took Jenkins and Simmons a long time to calm him down. When the team got to the Superdome the next day, there was legitimate concern that Davis might have a bad game due to having his sleep interrupted and that Fox would find out and be furious.

As it turned out, Davis survived the encounter with the big “wolf’’ just fine. He played one of his best games as a Panther. He carried 31 times for 178 yards and a touchdown as the Panthers won 23-20 in overtime.