Ever since the retirement of Mike Minter and Mike Rucker Panther fans have wondered who would fill the leadership gap. Panthers owner Jerry Richardson tried to assign the job to Pro Bowl De Julius Peppers in a press conference prior to the 2007 season. The problem is that is not his personality which I commented on last August after the press conference. Though I’ve never quoted myself before I can’t resist:
I’m left shaking my head at all this thinking what in the hell are you doing? Julius Peppers is not an out-spoken type of person in the mold of Mike Minter. Putting this type of pressure on him could DEFINITELY adversely affect his performance if he is not up to the task mentally. Julius is the quiet type who does his talking through his play and who wants to affect that? He is not going to give any "win one for the Gipper" type of locker room speeches. It’s not in his nature so get off his back JR and Pat. Nobody ever asked Minter to be the defensive leader; he just stepped up and assumed the role because it was in his nature.
Now I’m not saying this is completely responsible for his poor 2007 stat season. I think the medication he was on for the illness last training camp had something to do with it as well. I think it probably did contribute to his mental fatigue as the losses piled up. Hopefully JR won’t make a similar challenge this year.
Which leads me to Jon Beason. He apparently gave quite an inspiring speech prior to the Dallas game last season.
"It was one of those Martin Luther King-type of speeches," Lucas said. "It had that type of feel when he was done.
"It was during one of those times where things were hard and we weren't playing the way we were expected to play; and our record wasn't what we wanted it to be. It was just to finish off the season strong."
That’s quite a compliment from a typically no-nonsense guy. DT Damione Lewis concurred with the effect of the speech:
Added Lewis: "Everybody responded to it quickly because they knew he was speaking from his heart and speaking from passion. You know he has a lot of love and passion for the game, and you respect that."
Lucas wasn’t done:
"I've been in the league seven years, and I've probably never heard a speech like that from a coach or player before," Lucas said. "Everybody looked each other and was like, ‘Man, that was a powerful speech.' He gives that type of energy and vibe off. He's just a natural leader."
Beason is demonstrating the type of intangibles Hurney & Fox saw in him when they drafted him in the 1st round last season. He could very be their best draft pick to date (this year’s class withstanding). You could see it on the practice field as he was always available to encourage his team mates when the opportunity presented itself. Just one thing to get excited about as we get ready for a promising 2008 seaon.