NFL Wire News

Minicamp report: DeHaven recovering from cancer, back with Panthers


The Sports Xchange

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Before the Carolina Panthers began their three-day minicamp, special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven followed his usual routine, walking onto the field before nearly every player or coach. Before Tuesday, it was a walk he feared he’d never make again.

About seven weeks ago, he visited his doctor for a routine physical. On his way out, he brought up something that was bothering him. Tests revealed it was cancer.

“From what I heard going out of the doctor’s office down here I wasn’t sure I was ever going to be back,” DeHaven, 66, recalled Tuesday. “It’s turned out where I’m able to get back here. I’m so thankful. I look at life a whole lot different.”

After the diagnosis, DeHaven took a medical leave of absence, but not before calling in a favor. He asked Russ Purnell, a good friend and a retired special teams coordinator, if he’d consider un-retiring.

When a new batch of players ran onto the field in early May for rookie minicamp, Purnell was there. And in a way, so was DeHaven.

“I don’t know if I would have been able to have done all of this if it hadn’t been that I knew there was somebody here that was going to come in and do a great job.” DeHaven said. “I trusted him to take these guys in the same direction I was going to take them, and that’s exactly what he did. I hope that I could’ve coached these guys as well as he has the last six weeks.

“I think I’m still the coordinator, but it might as well be co-coordinators. We’re in this thing together. That’s the great thing about it being Russ. I trust him implicitly.”

While Purnell was filling in the past six weeks, DeHaven began his battle in Buffalo, where he lives for most of the year. His treatments, which don’t include chemotherapy, will continue through the season. Doctors want to see him at least once a month, but with some creative scheduling, he hopes he won’t miss much time on the job. And while the record-high 99-degree day might have been uncomfortably hot for most, DeHaven was more than content in his office outside.

“It was great. I love doing this. I love coaching. I love these guys,” DeHaven said.

“There’s lots of people that have a lot tougher deal than I do in terms of side effects they get out of this. It’s a serious illness, but I’ve got good doctors, and I think I’ve got a good attitude about it, so we’re hoping for the best.”

–Linebacker Thomas Davis is rare. Not just for what the reigning NFL Man of the Year has done on and off the field, but also for how he’ll leave it one day after playing for just one team.

“Being here and watching Julius Peppers leave, watching Muhsin Muhammad leave and come back, and seeing Steve Smith leave, it’s hard to say what would happen in this league,” Davis said Tuesday, less than 24 hours after signing a two-year contract extension.

“It’s a great feeling to know that I’m going to be able to finish my career where it started.”

A first-round pick in 2005, Davis has grown into one of the fan base’s most beloved figures. Since his extension runs through the 2017 season, the assumption is the 32-year-old has three years before his Super Bowl window shuts. But Davis believes the time he missed with three ACL tears from 2009 to 2011 bought him more time on the back end.

If he can still play after 2017, who’d be surprised to see him back out there? Not head coach Ron Rivera, for one.

“Knowing him, it’s going to be, ‘We’ll see how I am every year,'” Rivera predicted. “I know we’ve talked about he’s going to retire a Panther, well, maybe in three, four, five years, knowing him. As long as he stays healthy and continues to work at it, he’s got a great chance to extend his career.”

And Davis?

“I’m pretty sure I will want to keep going, and the same things applies. If this team is not willing to give me that shot in 2017, then like I said, I appreciate it, and it’s been a good career. I’m definitely going to shut it down,” Davis said, repeating his promise of only playing for the Panthers.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen then, but I just know that if I do decide that I can no longer play the game, I’ll definitely be excited with the work that I’ve been able to put in and the fact that I was able to play for one organization.”

–Tuesday’s record-high temperature of 99 degrees spurred a lot of “it’s good prep for Spartanburg” rationalizations, but sweltering now — six weeks before training camp — probably wasn’t all that helpful. What Rivera wants is similar weather when the Panthers head to South Carolina late next month.

Last year, he worried about unseasonably cool temperatures in Spartanburg ahead of the season opener in Tampa Bay. While the Panthers ended up winning that game, Rivera is hoping that camp gets back to being hot.

“My concern is we’re going to open up in Jacksonville, and we want to make sure there’s some heat and some humidity,” Rivera said. “Just kind of get used to it.”

About The Sports Xchange

Since 1987, the Sports Xchange has been the best source of information and analysis for the top professionals in the sports publishing & information business