Carolina Panthers

January 26, 2009

Ex-Panthers coach Trgovac on leaving: 'I just thought I needed a fresh start'

CHARLOTTE -- Former Panthers defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac wasn't going to air any dirty laundry.

But it's clear as he heads out for his new job as Green Bay's defensive line coach that there were some problems in Charlotte during the latter stages of his seven years with the Panthers.

And he didn't even realize how much they gnawed at him at the time.

"This is a tough business, and sometimes you don't even know how tough," Trgovac said. "I didn't realize the effect it was having on me until my wife and best friend told me that for the last year and a half, that I haven't been very happy and that I haven't been a very good father.

"That's why, for all the other stuff we could talk about, I just thought I needed a fresh start. Maybe I was trying too hard. I guess I was bringing my work home with me without even knowing it."

That's why he was looking forward to Saturday, which gave him an opportunity to watch his 10-year-old son Michael play hockey and his 14-year-old daughter Jordan's basketball game later in the afternoon.

It was shaping up to be a decidedly normal day for Trgovac, who hasn't had many the last few years.

Trgovac insisted he wanted to leave the Panthers on good terms, but it's hard to escape the natural conclusions which can be drawn from his departure.

In each of the last two seasons, coach John Fox started showing more influence in Trgovac's defensive meetings, doing so four games into 2007 and around midseason last year.

Asked directly if that interference (or collaboration, depending on your perspective) was a factor in his decision to leave, Trgovac backed away gently from the question.

"I don't want to get into that," he said. "The day-to-day stuff of what went on in our meetings or practices or whatever, I'd rather not get into it. It's over, and I think it's going to be best for me and best for John just to get a fresh start.

"I cherish my time there, and I learned a lot of football from a lot of people, and it's such a great place that it's hard to leave."

Trgovac was coordinator in Charlotte for six years, and the Panthers never finished worse than 15th in scoring defense any of those years. Three times, they were top-10 in that category.

But his decision to leave for a position-coach job, when a two-year contract at coordinator money was offered, seems to have relieved him of a burden.

"I'm going to leave on a positive note," he said. "I think that's the best way for everybody involved."

OTHER BUSINESS GOING ON: Aside from all the coaching drama, the Panthers have also been working on some other significant things.

Like trying to keep their Pro Bowl left tackle.

The team resumed contract talks with Jordan Gross shortly after the end of the regular season.

Gross said near the end of the season that he and the team were extremely close to a deal last year, but a quibble over what he called "language and structure" rather than dollars and cents kept them from a long-term contract agreement.

Of course, several things have complicated those negotiations since then.

Number one, Gross had an outstanding year at left tackle. Cha-ching.

Number two, he was recognized by his peers as one of the top tackles, and was the leading vote-getter at the position for the All-Pro team. Cha-ching.

Number three, more teams have more money to spend this offseason, and he's one of the biggest names potentially available in the open market. Cha-ching.

Then there's that Julius Peppers thing, with the possibility of him wearing the franchise tag this year so they can retain a chance to keep him or more likely trade him. Cha-ching, indeed.

That sound you hear is like the one in the casino when somebody hits the jackpot, and in a few weeks, in Charlotte or elsewhere, it'll be Gross.

EXTRA POINTS: Panthers' preseason television broadcaster Gary Williams is moving up in the radio world.

Williams, the seven-year co-host of WFNZ's "Morning Sports Page," has been hired by Sirius to co-host a morning show with Chris "Mad Dog" Russo on the satellite network.

He'll be based out of the New York area, but he said last week he had already spoken with the Panthers and hoped to be able to continue to work their preseason television package alongside former quarterback Steve Beuerlein. ...

Family connections run deep in the NFL. That's part of the reason former Panthers secondary coach Tim Lewis ended up in Seattle. His brother Will Lewis is the Seahawks director of pro personnel, and doubtless put in a good word for him.

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