CHARLOTTE -- Dan Morgan and the Carolina Panthers wanted desperately for it to work, did everything they could to make it work.
But after issuing linebacker him a de facto ultimatum with a contract renegotiation last year, then drafting his replacement, the Panthers had no choice when he again failed to stay on the field. And the way things have gone for him in Charlotte, it's little wonder Morgan accepted Monday's news with little more than a shrug.
"Maybe I just need to go somewhere else and change my luck," Morgan said Monday night, hours after being released by the team.
The Panthers parted ways with the talented but star-crossed linebacker, cutting him along with veteran guard Mike Wahle. Both moves were described as "difficult," but the true pain for them comes in the Morgan transaction.
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In short, he was everything they wanted in a player, except healthy. He had played in just 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.
"Dan has meant a lot to us," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. "He's an extremely talented player who's done everything we've asked and just brought a dedication and a commitment to us that you're looking for. But with the way things went, and the emergence of Jon Beason, we felt it was time to go in another direction.
"I can't speak for Dan, but he's looking forward to continuing to play, and maybe a change of scenery will be good, as well. You can't say enough about Dan Morgan and how we feel about him."
Morgan had talked through the decision with Hurney last week, and he spoke with coach John Fox Monday morning. After all the years and hurdles, all three knew what was coming, and solemnly agreed that it was time. There was no joy in making such a call, but as adults, they knew there was no sense in tears, either.
"We all knew what was going on," Morgan said. "We had had the discussions, and all of us were good with it. It gets to a point where you have to move on, and, hey, there's a possibility I'll have better luck somewhere else.
"From that standpoint, today was a real easy conversation, like talking to your family members."
Morgan said he was definitely going to play again this year, and he was working out with Beason to get ready to do just that. The 29-year-old linebacker, their first-round pick in 2001, should still get an opportunity somewhere to play, but the Panthers were simply tired of waiting.
After watching him go through a series of injuries that ran from the sublime (career-threatening concussions) to the ridiculous (a grass-related broken ankle his rookie year), the Panthers could barely watch him return. But they did so last year, covering themselves by turning a $2 million roster bonus into a series of 16 payments of $125,000, one for each game he played. He only cashed three of those in, before injuring his shoulder and partially tearing his Achilles tendon in Atlanta on Sept. 23. He's had surgery for the Achilles problem but his shoulder will be a question moving forward wherever he goes.
The fact that Beason played so well last year made it a bit easier, since he set a team record with 160 tackles (despite starting the first four games on the outside).
"I've got no hard feelings toward Jon or the Panthers," Morgan said. "Hey, in a perfect world, I'd have stayed healthy and he and I would have played together another five years.
"It's a business, but as far as hard feelings, there are none. He's one of my best friends, and I look forward to him having a great career and going to a bunch of Pro Bowls."
Wahle was the easier call, since it was becoming obvious he wasn't the same player from a physical standpoint. He made the Pro Bowl in 2006, the first Panthers offensive lineman to do so, but his level dropped off last year, and he was also bothered by shoulder problems.
If they stay in house for his replacement, they might try Justin Hartwig at left guard, since they want to get last year's second-round center, Ryan Kalil, on the field. They also have a stable of other possibilities, including Geoff Hangartner, Evan Mathis and Jeremy Bridges.
Hurney said both Morgan and Wahle would be designated as post-June 1 cuts, allowing the team to spread the cap hits incurred over two years. Both had significant bonus prorations left on the books, though the Panthers saw a net savings of around $3.3 million this year.
More cuts are certainly coming, with quarterback David Carr and running back DeShaun Foster atop the list of likely victims. The Panthers could generate approximately $5 million worth of room if they're released.
"You're constantly making decisions this time of year," Hurney said. "When they're done, that's when you do them. I can't say we're not going to make any more decisions, but I don't necessarily want to say we will.
"This is the time of year when things are hour-to-hour and day-to-day. You address them at the appropriate time."