A Silver Lining?

They say that every dark cloud has a silver lining. Trying to find that silver lining on this year's Carolina Panthers season is like trying to watch that lunar eclipse Wednesday night with a cloudy sky. You may catch a glimmer of light shining through every now and then, but most of the time all you see is darkness and uncertainty.<br><br>

Still, there are several bright - (okay, I'll settle for slightly glowing) moments during this season of doom and gloom that gives hope for both the franchise and the fans for the future.

The young guns - I'm sure that if you would have asked coach John Fox at the beginning of the season if he would have been playing as many young players at starting positions, not only would he have answered you in coachspeak, but he would have probably told you that you were crazy. However, with the ever-increasing number of injuries the Panthers have faced this year, young players like Chris Gamble, Travelle Wharton, Michael Gaines and Keary Colbert have had to step up and contribute sooner than the coaching staff had expected. First round draft pick Chris Gamble got his chance when Artrell Hawkins was hampered by a nagging ankle injury early during preseason, removing any chance for competition for the starting open cornerback position. Second round draft pick Keary Colbert got the starting nod when leading wide receiver Steve Smith went down with a season ending leg injury during the opening game against Green Bay. Offensive lineman Travelle Wharton had his opportunity to start on the left side of the line due to injury and the need too find some sort of consistency at the offensive line position. Even late round draft pick Michael Gaines and last year's draft pick Kindal Morehead have had moments to contribute this year.

Brad Hoover - What can you say about a guy that typically does all the grunt work for Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster who can step in as a running back and motor for over 100 yards? This selfless guy contributes for the team in so many ways and never asks for any sort of recognition for what he does.

The Fans - No, this isn't the 1-15 season yet but so far the true diehard fans have stuck by their team through this hard time. It takes a lot not to pull up your stakes and run anytime your team isn't doing well. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come. The Panthers need more diehards and less wine-and-cheese fans for Charlotte to be considered a true "football" town.

Finally, I'd like to give a special recognition award to coach John Fox. Granted he's not in the same situation as Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt, but to come out every week and be able to answer the same questions about the same problems that still do not have a clear-cut solution takes both character and class. Despite the record, I'm still glad we have Fox over (gulp) Spurrier.

So take heart Panther fans. The season is still not over yet and I'm sure we'll experience more bumps and bruises before we're through. But take heart that we have young guys that are getting great experience now that will pay off in the future, veterans that are willing to step up when called upon and a coaching staff doing their best to plug the holes the best they can. They may not be the Cardiac Cats this season, but that's no reason not to still find ways to get excited about them.

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