Rookie linebacker Jon Beason said the Panthers suffered from too many injuries in 2007. He was frustrated at the season's outcome and may have been thinking "what if."
"You look at the Patriots and they are completing a perfect season so far," Beason said. "They haven't had any injuries. Let Randy Moss go down or Tom Brady go down or maybe Rodney Harrison or one of their leaders. It's tough.
Beason blamed injuries for the Panthers' disappointing 7-9 season, one which many experts thought they'd compete for a possible Super Bowl return. Those hopes ended when Carolina lost it's starting quarterback, and was forced to sign Patriots backup Vinny Testaverde - a player the Patriots likely planned on bringing back at some point during the 2007 season. When Testaverde was sidelined by injury, the Panthers had to go to their third (David Carr), fourth (Brett Basenez) and fifth options (Matt Moore).
"We had our leader go down in Jake Delhomme and we had guys step in and play well but we were just short," Beason said. "That is part of it."
Beason knows that backups, like Testaverde and David Carr, had to step in to fill Delhomme's shoes. No one could predict the volume of injuries the Panthers had to deal with. The string of bad luck derailed a potentially promising season.
"The twos have to be ready to step in and make plays. Sometimes you need a little luck on your side, too."
It's possible Beason used the Patriots as example because of his pre Draft visit with New England head coach Bill Belichick last march. The talented former Miami product was one of a few players Belichick took time to meet with personally in Florida, and then scheduled for one of his Pre Draft visits in Foxborough.
According to Beason, things went well on the visit. When people get to meet Bill Belichick in person, it tends to have an impact on them, especially a potential Draft pick. When New England opted to select Beason's teammate Brandon Meriweather at the 24th spot, Beason had to wonder what was up. The Patriots still had a pick left with the 28th overall, and it's believed Beason would have been their choice had Carolina not stepped in to select him 25th overall. New England then traded away their remaining first round pick and didn't select a linebacker until the sixth round when they drafted Justin Rogers out of SMU.
Beason turned in a monster year leading the Panthers' defense with 140 tackles, good enough for third overall in the NFL. He was the only other player to receive votes for Rookie Defensive Player of the Year aside from the winner Patrick Willis who received 48 of the 50 possible ballots.
For Beason, the future looks bright. Maybe his luck will change next year and the Panthers will be able to field healthy bodies like the Patriots for most of the season.
Materials from wire reports, scout.com interviews and league sources were used in this report.