Carolina Panthers

Gross not ready for games-played streak to end

Panthers tackle Jordan Gross motions to his teammates and fans as he is carted off the field after being knocked unconscious.
Panthers tackle Jordan Gross motions to his teammates and fans as he is carted off the field after being knocked unconscious.

CHARLOTTE -- As frightening as it was, Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross still considers himself lucky.

Gross suffered a concussion in last week's win over Atlanta, which has him unsure if he'll be able to play this week. He's never missed a start with the Panthers, with 91 consecutive appearances since he was drafted in 2003. Odds are that streak ends, but Gross wouldn't concede the point Thursday, in his first interview since the incident.

He said it was the first "documented" concussion of his career, and it came when he took a knee to the head from Atlanta linebacker Michael Boley, which caught him just behind his left ear.

"The play before I cut (linebacker) Keith Brooking and he hit me in the head, so I was kind of dizzy from that," Gross said. "And then the next play, I fell down right into Michael Boley's legs and he hit me in the same spot. I remember the play, I remember once I woke up, my memory's been good, my vision was the worst thing. Everything was real blurry.

"But yeah, it wasn't like I blacked out for the whole game. I thought I was just out for a few seconds, but it was three, four minutes."

Players who lose consciousness from a blow to the head generally sit out a week or two, but Gross said he'd know more today after he runs whether that would be necessary.

"They don't want me doing anything, it's one step at a time," he said. "I'll be jogging first and then lifting and then playing football. Obviously, I'm as new to this as anybody. It's just, they really want to make sure you're out of the woods before you get back out there or else, they don't want it to be an issue."

Gross said the blurred vision surprised him, but after trainers got him up, he shooed away a stretcher and rode off the field on the back of a cart. Maybe they should have used a seat belt there, as he laughed and said he almost fell out again while trying to prove to the fans he was OK.

"I'm by no means Superman but I have a pretty good history of being in every play," he said. "So everybody knew for me to stay down, something was going on. They got me moving, though, and that's when I kind of gave the fist pump that everyone does. It's kind of cheesy, but just to let everybody know I'm fine.

"I went into the tunnel after that though and about passed out again I was so dizzy from holding my fist up. I had to get the team going, I guess."

When asked if he had ruled Gross out for Sunday's game against Kansas City, coach John Fox replied: "Nope. Day-to-day."

Gross said he'd like to keep his streak going, because he's proud of his durability thus far in his career.

"Yeah, it matters; it's something you're proud of," he said. "Since I've been here, the O-line, or me in general, has been saint or whipping boy, depending on how the game's gone, and the one thing that's been consistent is I've always been out there playing.

"So, I've got my fingers crossed. We'll see what happens."

• IN CASE IT WAS YOU: Wide receiver Steve Smith said he wasn't sure if he was going to be able to retrieve the ball he eventually gave cornerback Ken Lucas as a peace offering. After he scored a 56-yard touchdown, Smith spiked the ball he intended to give Lucas, and then didn't realize it bounced into the stands.

"When I spiked it, I didn't know it went up," Smith said. "So when I looked over for it on the ground, it wasn't there.

"I needed that ball."

Smith said he had decided his first scoring ball would go to Lucas, whose nose he broke during a training camp fight which earned him a two-game suspension. But he kept the plan a secret, telling only his wife. Then he had to talk the souvenir out of the hands of the fan who caught it.

"I just asked for the ball back," Smith said. "He didn't have to give it to me. If he contacts the Panthers, I'll do something nice for him."

Naturally, hundreds will likely call saying they were the generous soul who allowed Smith to give his gift of penance, which will demand verification.

"Tell him to have his ticket stub," Smith added with a grin.

• EXTRA POINTS: Linebacker Na'il Diggs (illness) was held out of practice Thursday, and wide receiver Ryne Robinson (knee) was moved from the full participation category back to limited. That's not good for the receiver-returner, who appeared close to getting some of his old duties back. At this point, to get a jersey on game day, he's going to have to prove himself better than returner Mark Jones in practice. If he can't get through a full one, that's not going to happen, as Jones has been perfectly serviceable. He's averaging 8.8 yards per return, 14th in the league. ...

Lucas also was limited Thursday, after taking Wednesday off with an ankle injury. Gross, right tackle Jeff Otah (ankle), safety Quinton Teal (ankle) and quarterback Matt Moore (leg) were also out. ...

Fox wouldn't commit to what he'd do without Gross or Otah. "I won't say that until we absolutely have to," he said. "Competitive reasons."