Panthers’ Jerricho Cotchery described as ‘no-maintenance’ wide receiver

jperson@charlotteobserver.comMarch 25, 2014 

— Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said new Panthers receiver Jerricho Cotchery will be a good addition to a Carolina team looking to turn over its leadership.

“He’s not low-maintenance,” Tomlin said Tuesday at the annual league meetings. “He’s no-maintenance.”

There has been a lot of talk the past couple of weeks about so-called “diva” receivers around the NFL.

Philadelphia is not finding any trade partners for wideout DeSean Jackson, who carries a $10.5 million price tag this year and a reputation of being high-maintenance.

The Panthers were willing to cut ties with Steve Smith, the franchise’s all-time receiving leader, in part because general manager Dave Gettleman viewed him as a distraction, according to league sources.

But Tomlin praised Cotchery, the former Steelers receiver who signed a two-year deal with the Panthers last week, as “a good football player, but better than that a good man.”

“He’s a special professional, a good teammate, and he’s a guy that’s capable of delivering in any circumstance,” Tomlin said. “I wish him nothing but the best.”

Cotchery, 31, a former N.C. State standout, played three seasons in Pittsburgh under Tomlin. He emerged as Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite red-zone target last season, when he caught a career-high 10 touchdowns.

But Tomlin said Cotchery, who played primarily in the slot in Pittsburgh, can fill a number of receiving roles.

“Jerricho’s the type of guy that he’s going to be what you need him to be,” Tomlin said. “He’s a pro.”

Gettleman said Cotchery was in the Panthers’ “price range” but also “brought things to the table that we needed.”

Quoth the Raven: At another table 10 yards away during the AFC coaches breakfast Tuesday at the Ritz-Carlton, Baltimore’s John Harbaugh said he had no concerns about Smith’s attitude after the Ravens signed him to a three-year deal.

“Steve is going to be a leader. I love where he’s at. What he was telling me about his plans for enhancing our team and our organization were just exactly the things that I wanted to hear and expected to hear,” Harbaugh said.

Harbaugh said he couldn’t speak to Smith’s 13 years in Carolina, which ended when he was released March 13.

Gettleman said cutting Smith was strictly a football decision, adding it probably was the most difficult one he has made during his 15-month tenure with the Panthers.

“The thing I found really interesting and I thought about was this had never happened before in Carolina in any sport,” Gettleman said of cutting a player who had spent his entire career with the organization. “It was a very tough decision.”

While Smith’s yards-per-catch average fell by nearly 5 yards last season to 11.6, Harbaugh believes Smith, 34, still can get open deep.

“I saw him catch the deep balls. So when he had a chance, when he was running a (go) route or a (post) route, and he was even with the defender, he was leaving (him) still,” Harbaugh said. “He was able to accelerate and go make the catch. If he does it, that means he can still do it. And that’s all we really needed to see.”

No Fun League: Now that Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez has retired, the NFL intends to crack down on players celebrating by dunking the ball over the crossbar. The celebratory dunk was popularized by Gonzalez, a former basketball player at California.

The league implemented a rule several years ago prohibiting players from using the ball as a prop while celebrating, but grandfathered in Gonzalez’s dunk. Now a dunk will draw a 15-yard flag for unsportsmanlike conduct.

New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham, who played basketball at Miami, seemed undeterred.

“I guess I’ll have to lead the @nfl in penalties next year! #funpolice,” Graham posted on his Twitter account, accompanied by a picture of him dunking over a goalpost in the face of a Photoshopped official.

Graham at one point deleted the tweet Tuesday, apparently bowing to the fun police.

Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson

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