NFL Nation: Mark Fields
The Carolina Panthers previously announced their logo will change. Here’s the new one and the old one. Also, check out the collars on the Panthers' uniforms. They feature the "Keep Pounding'' message that was started when former Carolina linebacker and assistant coach Sam Mills and linebacker Mark Fields were battling cancer.
All four NFC South teams have elected to stick with their traditional uniforms (with the Panthers making some slight tweaks), but Nike has made significant changes to how the uniforms are made.
You can check out the Atlanta Falcons here and the Panthers here. You can see the New Orleans Saints’ page here and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers here. Just a quick note that I've heard from some readers that there appear to be some problems with the server on Nike's website, so you might want to try several times if you run into trouble.
You also can follow our Uni Watch coverage on Twitter.
Feel free to share your thoughts below.
Analysis: When owner Jerry Richardson talked about how the life had been drained from his franchise during a disastrous 1-15 season in 2001 under coach George Seifert, he couldn’t have expected how dramatic the turnaround would be. Nobody saw the Panthers going to the Super Bowl within two years, but that’s exactly what happened with first-time head coach John Fox.
Rodney Peete opened the season as the starting quarterback and that lasted all of two quarters before Delhomme came on to rally the Panthers and take over the job. With Davis carrying the offense and the defensive line dominating, Delhomme continued to show a knack for leading comebacks.
The Panthers caught lightning in a bottle and also rode the emotion of preseason news that linebackers coach and former team captain Sam Mills and starting linebacker Mark Fields each had cancer. Carolina finished the regular season 11-5 and won its first NFC South championship.
A playoff victory at home against Dallas wasn’t a big surprise, but the Panthers stunned just about everyone by going on the road and winning at St. Louis (in double overtime) and completely dominating the Eagles on a frigid night in Philadelphia.
That put the Panthers into the Super Bowl against New England. A touchdown pass to Ricky Proehl with one minute, eight seconds remaining tied the score. But Carolina’s chances of pulling the upset faded as John Kasay followed up by kicking the ball out of bounds to give New England good field position. The Patriots kicked the game-winning field goal with four seconds remaining.
Most impressive win: It’s tough to top the image of Steve Smith scoring a touchdown on the first play of the second overtime in St. Louis, but players and coaches will tell you the key moment of the season came in Week 2 at Tampa against the defending Super Bowl champions. The Bucs scored a late touchdown and needed only to kick the extra point to win the game. The Panthers blocked the kick, forced overtime and won 12-9.
Research room: This team was known as the “Cardiac Cats." The reason was simple. The Panthers won seven games in the last two minutes or in overtime.
1996: In only the second year of the franchise’s existence, coach Dom Capers, quarterback Kerry Collins and a great defense took the Panthers all the way to the NFC Championship Game in Green Bay. A home playoff victory against Dallas provided a truly monumental moment for an expansion team and the city of Charlotte.
2005: Fox’s 2004 team underachieved, but the 2005 team overachieved more than any in franchise history. Give the credit to Smith for carrying the Panthers all the way to the NFC Championship Game in Seattle. Injuries to the running backs kept the Panthers from running like Fox wanted to, but Smith and Delhomme had a special chemistry that year.
2008: A 12-4 record, an NFC South crown and a first-round bye added up to absolutely nothing. In what easily is the most disappointing game in franchise history, Arizona came into Bank of America Stadium and routed the Panthers 33-13. Starting with that game, the normally reliable Delhomme began turning the ball over so frequently that he played his way out of Charlotte.
Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
Let's get this out of the way at the start: The Carolina Panthers are the best team the NFC has to offer right now.
Kind of ironic because that's the kind of attention their fans have been begging for all season. It's also ironic because that's exactly the same type of attention their coach, general manager and owner absolutely despise.
|Kevin Terrell/Getty Images|
|John Fox has the Panthers poised for the top spot in the NFC playoffs.|
If John Fox, Marty Hurney and Jerry Richardson were piloting a plane up to New York for Sunday night's showdown with the New York Giants, they'd be scraping the ground all the way. These guys didn't invent flying under the radar -- they just have mastered it.
Tell Fox his team is 11-3 and he instantly will tell you the only thing guaranteed is the Panthers will finish with 11 wins. Pick up a phone in the Giants Stadium press box in the final moments of a 2005 playoff shutout of New York and start making hotel reservations in Chicago for the following week's game and Hurney, the bizarrely-superstitious general manager, will start screaming at a reporter, "Stan, hang up that phone right now. This game's not over. You're going to jinx us."
Richardson, the owner who brought the franchise to the Carolinas, gets bashed on talk radio for not giving any interviews. In recent years, he's sat down with a beat writer or columnist from The Charlotte Observer once or twice a year for one-on-one chats. In those settings, Richardson shows a tremendous mind and a brilliant common touch. He'll give good answers and, inevitably, the beat writer or the columnist would look at him and say, "See it's not so hard. Why don't you do this more often?" Richardson would then say he prefers not to because it's not about him, it's about the team.
Then, Richardson would sit for an hour or two and talk off the record, asking the columnist about his family or asking the beat reporter what parts of the team could be run better. Part of it was a genuine care about the person he was talking to and part of it was to take the attention off himself.
But it's no longer possible for Fox, Hurney and Richardson to stay under the radar. Their team is playing the defending Super Bowl champions in a prime-time slot -- nobody's overlooking the Panthers anymore.
Maybe those fans who have been beating their chests and sounding like helicopters can stop. The Panthers are getting attention and respect.
As I said at the start, the Panthers are the best team in the NFC right now. And I'll take it one step further and say the Panthers are the NFC's best bet to get to the Super Bowl.
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