Morgan still wants to play

12/31/2007 11:17 PM

12/31/2007 11:22 PM

CHARLOTTE -- The Carolina Panthers appear to have moved on at linebacker, but Dan Morgan's response Monday was clear.

He's playing in 2008 -- somewhere.

"I definitely want to come back and play," Morgan said. "Whether it's here, I'm not sure, but I do want to come back."

Morgan's about to begin rehabilitation after having surgery to repair the Achilles tendon injured that ended his season in September. Through his seven years in Charlotte, he's known as much for time missed as plays made.

Morgan played 59 of a possible 112 games (52.7 percent) in his career, after never missing a game due to injury in high school or college. The Panthers restructured his contract last year to protect themselves, converting a $2 million roster bonus into per-game payments of $125,000, but he only collected three of those.

The fact they did the contract that way gave it the appearance of a last chance, and the emergence of rookie Jon Beason in the middle this year furthered that perception. The Panthers also signed Na'il Diggs to a three-year extension last week, giving them the current group of starters under contractual control through 2009.

"I'm not sure, like I said, I don't know what their plans are," Morgan said of this year's developments. "Jon came in and did a great job; I'm happy for him, he's a good friend of mine. I wish him all the success. I love watching him play.

"It's football, it's the game we're in. Next year, whether it's here or somewhere, I'm going to play. It'll be my eighth year. I've missed a lot of games, but I feel healthy, and once I'm healed up, I'll be ready to go."

Beason began lobbying for his buddy after Sunday's regular season finale, and continued his pitch Monday. But since he played so well as a rookie, it's hard to imagine the Panthers moving him out of that spot -- where they envisioned him since the draft, though they thought he'd have a longer internship as an the weakside linebacker.

"We want to play with each other," Beason said. "It's a crazy situation because coming in I thought it would be like Batman and Robin for several years to come.

"But, with it being so soon, it's a sad situation. I want him back. Even if they don't ask me, I will tell them I want him back."

Morgan said if need be, he had no qualms about playing outside, since that's where he began at Miami, and where he played his rookie year in 2001.

"I wouldn't mind," Morgan said of moving from the middle. "I'm a football player."

• VOTE OF CONFIDENCE: Quarterback Jake Delhomme said Monday if he had his way, the Panthers wouldn't worry about putting another quarterback on the offseason shopping list.

There's a growing sense coming from the team that it might be satisfied going into next season with Delhomme, rookie Matt Moore and injured Brett Basanez, without signing a veteran backup. That's a cause for some concern since Delhomme's coming off Tommy John surgery to his throwing elbow, but his recovery's on target, and he's scheduled to begin throwing in February.

Delhomme was asked if he'd be comfortable with such a depth chart, and his answer was quick and clear.

"Absolutely," he said. "I think you can tell pretty quick whether guys get it or don't get it. I think he (Moore) gets it. I think it's evident. He's played well. He can pass the football. We said that from the beginning.

"It's the other things and that comes with playing time. He threw the ball well yesterday, and I think with Brett, I'm very confident in those two young guys. Maybe a lot of people around may not know who they are and whatnot, but in my opinion that doesn't mean squat."

• STILL SMILING: Of course, Delhomme's endorsement of the kids comes along with the unspoken assumption that the team will soon part ways with David Carr, who was signed to a two-year deal this offseason and promptly imploded.

It's probably the most obvious of the offseason moves they'll make, and everyone seems to know it. When asked if he thought he'd be back, Carr shrugged.

"I don't know, man, I don't worry about things like that," he said. "If I tried to do that, I'd be a mess. You just enjoy it, that's what it's all about. That's what I learned two or three years ago, if you get bummed out after every game, let it fester inside you, and you don't enjoy the opportunity you've been given, then you're going to look back on it and be angry that you didn't take advantage of what you had, and smile enough and enjoy the game."

He grinned when asked if he considered what it might have been like if he had gone with his other choice, Seattle, instead of the Panthers, since Seahawks starter Matt Hasselbeck went all 16 games this year. That would have given Carr the time off he was looking for after being battered physically, mentally and emotionally in Houston.

"I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind," Carr said. "But who's to say I don't go in and get hurt out there. You never know what could happen."

• FEELING BETTER: Running back Nick Goings said he's been cleared to return by doctors, after visiting the same specialists Morgan did a year ago this time.

The special teams captain was lost for the year after sustaining his third concussion (all of which have been big ones). He said he's talked extensively with Morgan about coming back and plans to be back on the field at minicamp this spring.

"I have throughout this whole process," Goings said. "There's no question it's frustrating. I couldn't work out and do anything. It's not something you can rehab. It was really strange. But I feel ready now."

• EXTRA POINTS: The Panthers will pick 13th in this year's draft, fifth among the seven teams that finished 7-9, with the ties broken by strength of schedule.

Another loss would have had them picking ninth, as the only team at 6-10. ...

Players scattered quickly Monday, and running back DeAngelo Williams had big plans already.

"I'm going to down to (defensive tackle) Damione Lewis' house to shoot some wild hogs," Williams said. "I'm from Arkansas and that is all we do is hunt and fish. It's fun. It's legal." ...

After taking today off, the coaching staff will begin its evaluation meetings Wednesday, the first step in determining what moves need to be made.

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