CHARLOTTE -- Former Carolina Panthers wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson said Thursday he asked the team to cut him, following their decision to draft fellow Southern Cal product Dwayne Jarrett.
Johnson, now working as an analyst for ESPN, said he had a number of discussions with general manager Marty Hurney in the days after the Panthers chose the not-yet-21-year-old wide receiver in the second round.
"Nobody knows this, but I actually asked them to release me," Johnson said. "Marty and I spoke after the draft, and he started talking about how they wanted to go younger, and they were going to do this and that. I told him, 'I'm too grown for that.'
"It's not for Keyshawn. I said to Marty, 'Why don't you just release me rather than talking about me coming to camp and fighting for a job?'"
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Johnson said several teams have called inquiring if he wanted to come back to the game -- "They've tried to court me, even up until last week," he said -- but he's happy working in television.
He insisted that he had no hard feelings toward the Panthers, and the discussions hastened his own choice to call it a career after 11 seasons. He turned down several overtures from teams in the days after his release before announcing his retirement in late May.
• LUCAS RESTRUCTURES: The Panthers created a little regular-season breathing room under the salary cap, after completing a restructuring with cornerback Ken Lucas.
The team cleared around $1.8 million through the deal. According to Lucas' agent, the difference in his smaller base salaries this year and next were made up for in guaranteed bonuses now and in future years.
"He was happy to help the team out," agent Bus Cook said. "With some of the things in there, it actually balances out in Ken's favor."
In exchange for the guaranteed money, Lucas' salary drops from $3.2 million to $700,000 this year, and $2.3 million to $1.3 million next season. He's under contract through 2010.
• UNCHARTED TERRITORY: Receiver Steve Smith laughed when asked about being voted one of the team's five captains.
It was funny, because he admitted he never expected it.
"I guess because I'm a loner a little bit, an introvert," he explained. "It surprised me a lot."
The seventh-year receiver might not have the typical personality (or background) associated with leaders, but his teammates voted him in. He said he considered it a special honor, especially since he shared it with 2001 draft classmate Dan Morgan.
"That's kind of cool to say, 'Hey, I was a captain,' and especially the guys I'm captain with," Smith said. "Especially with Dan, and all the things he went through last year, and us getting drafted together, that's neat. That's one of the little things, the little gems of playing that a lot of people don't have the opportunity (to enjoy).
"It's one of those things behind the scenes that people don't realize how special it is. I realize it a lot and I'm thankful for that."
• EXTRA POINTS: The Panthers added Chris Gamble (ankle) to the injury report, since he was limited in practice. Safety Nate Salley (knee) was the only player held out completely, as defensive end Stanley McClover (thigh) and long snapper Jason Kyle (back) returned to full participation.
The Panthers will give their initial diagnoses (doubtful, questionable, etc.) after practice today. ... Coach John Fox was asked about the possibility of using running back Nick Goings on kickoff returns, and he reverted to his normally cagey regular-season form.