ST. LOUIS -- The Carolina Panthers will have a little extra motivation on the field with them today, with retired safety Mike Minter making his first appearance with the team since his retirement just over a month ago.
The visit has been kept secret from the players, though defensive end Mike Rucker knew about it -- since Minter's called him daily for updates.
The five-time defensive captain was scheduled to arrive this morning, flying here in a private jet along with owner Jerry Richardson and his family.
Minter said last week he wanted to try to say something to the team before the game, but because of his tearful exit, he wasn't sure how he was going to be able to. He planned to come back for an 11th and final season, but said he realized after about a week of camp his knees wouldn't allow it.
"I'm sure coach (John) Fox will let me say something, but it's going to be emotional, it's going to be tough," Minter said. "I honestly don't know if I can be in that locker room before the game, I might be too tore up to say anything.
"But whether it's there or on the field, I want to say something to the guys, because of what this team means to me."
Minter's been busying himself the last month with church work and coaching his youth football team, but he admitted how difficult it's been being away from the Panthers for the first time since he was drafted in 1997.
"I've been feeling it, man," Minter said. "It's been crazy, I've been going around like I'm lost."
Rucker smiled when asked about his best friend and the frequent calls, acknowledging that retirement was a tough decision, but the right one.
"We definitely talk, he definitely misses the game," Rucker said. "But there's a difference between that and having a calm and a peace about it. That's what he has."