CHARLOTTE -- Less than a month after saying he wanted to play again, it now appears that Carolina Panthers defensive end Mike Rucker has had a change of heart.
Rucker became an unrestricted free agent at midnight. Panthers coach John Fox and general manager Marty Hurney had met with him two weeks ago and told him they intended to look another direction for a starter at defensive end. At that point, Rucker said he wanted to come back, but hedged when talk turned to actually going to another city.
His best friend and former teammate, Mike Minter, said Thursday that his partner was now having second thoughts.
"He's leaning toward not playing at all now," Minter said. "I think he might have spoke too fast last time, and the more he thinks about it, the less he wants to go somewhere else."
• THE HOOV RETURNS: Late Thursday night, the Panthers reached an agreement on a new three-year deal with fullback Brad Hoover. Terms were undisclosed.
He made the team as an undrafted free agent in 2000 out of Western Carolina, and became a cult hero with his 117-yard game against Green Bay on "Monday Night Football."
• CORNERING THE MARKET: The Panthers made sure they kept their cornerback position a solid four-deep by reaching an agreement on a two-year deal with Dante Wesley.
The Panthers brought the 28-year-old Wesley back after final cuts last year, but he appeared in just two games before breaking his collarbone against Houston.
• KEEPING CURRY: The team's also close to inking a two-year deal with linebacker Donte Curry, a midseason pickup who quickly proved to be one of the Panters' best special teams players.