Carolina Panthers

Team pulls plug on Morgan's season

Dan Morgan, left, instructs rookie linebacker Jon Beason during training camp. The Panthers put Morgan on injured reserve, ending his season.
Dan Morgan, left, instructs rookie linebacker Jon Beason during training camp. The Panthers put Morgan on injured reserve, ending his season.

CHARLOTTE -- The Carolina Panthers simply couldn't wait any longer.

But as he's done so many times, Dan Morgan has declared this won't keep him down.

The team ended the season -- and possibly the career here -- of the oft-injured linebacker by placing him on injured reserve Tuesday. He hadn't played since suffering a partial tear of his Achilles tendon on Sept. 23 in Atlanta.

Morgan said he'd need surgery -- probably Friday but definitely this week -- to repair the injury, which brings into question his future as a player period. He said doctors have advised him that he can expect a six month recovery period, but he's adamant that his career is not over.

"I'm definitely looking to play next year," Morgan said Tuesday night.

The 28-year-old Morgan said he hoped to be back by the Indianapolis game two weeks ago, but that prognosis kept getting pushed back. Then it became this week's game against Atlanta he set as a goal, but no progress was being made, so the Panthers decided to end the suspense.

"I was in the cast for two weeks, and it felt good when I got out of the cast," Morgan said. "But then it's like four or five weeks later, and when I try to run, it's just not feeling any better.

"It just wasn't getting any better, so I had no choice but to get the surgery. For me to come back next year, I had to do it sooner rather than later to continue playing."

Morgan's under contract with the Panthers through 2010, but that could be a moot point, since the way they restructured his contract this year made it effectively his last chance. The Panthers turned a $2 million roster bonus into 16 per-game payments of $125,000, of which he collected three.

"I didn't have a problem with that, because that's just them protecting themselves," Morgan said. "I thought they were going to do something like that if I was going to come back. Obviously, I have the injury history, and that's part of the business."

After doing that -- and replacing him on the field with rookie Jon Beason, to sparkling results -- it's easy to imagine them not wanting to invest any more time or dollars in their 2001 first-round pick.

General manager Marty Hurney said they haven't thought about the future of Morgan beyond this year.

"I don't know, it's way too early for any of that," Hurney said. "That's one of those where you wait until the end of the season to evaluate that, just like we evaluate everything at the end of the year."

Morgan, however, said he wouldn't be surprised if the Panthers wanted to part ways.

"I haven't talked to them about that," Morgan said. "Whatever happens is going to happen, but the Panthers organization has been great to me and I'm grateful for that.

"But if they decide to do something else, then I'd definitely look to play somewhere else."

Since he's done for the year, 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.

In that time, he amassed 452 tackles (third in franchise history), five interceptions, four forced fumbles and six recoveries, batting down 18 passes, and earned a Pro Bowl invitation in 2004.

He had missed 22 games in his first four years with a variety of injuries (though only two concussions, of his five), when they gave him a six-year, $28 million contract extension, which included $12 million worth of bonuses. He didn't cash in on all those, per this year's pay cut.

After that, he played 13 games in 2005, including all three playoff games, before his concussion problems kicked in in earnest in 2006.

He suffered what he initially called a "ding" in a preseason game at Jacksonville, then took a knee to the side of the head in the opener against Atlanta, and didn't return to the field.

He played the first two games this year, before suffering shoulder and Achilles injuries in Atlanta, ending his year.

As much as he's been through, it's natural for him to wonder why his luck never turned.

But Tuesday, as his latest season ended, he tried to stay philosophical.

"There are times you wonder about things like 'Why me?'" Morgan said. "It is crazy some of the things that happen, but I kind of take it as that's life.

"I've been really fortunate in life. From an injury standpoint, not as fortunate. But I've got the kind of life, I can't complain about anything. It's obviously really frustrating, but you can't let it affect you away from the field."

The Panthers replaced Morgan on the active roster with practice squad fullback Billy Latsko, and signed quarterback Drew Olson to the practice squad to give them another healthy arm for practice today, given the uncertainty over David Carr (concussion) and Vinny Testaverde (Achilles).

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