Jordan Gross drove up to Bank of America Stadium around 11 a.m. having just heard the team had fired general manager Marty Hurney.
Fellow offensive lineman Geoff Hangartner had called him earlier, but he hadnt been able to see his other teammates. Gross, a two-time Pro Bowl tackle for the Panthers, didnt want to comment on Hurney as he stepped out of the car until he had a chance to see his coaches and teammates.
Hours later, after what he called a brief team meeting, Gross was still surprised by the firing of the man who drafted him with the eighth pick of the 2003 draft.
Its rough news, to say the least, Gross said. Marty personally drafted me here 10 years ago. Great administrator, great friend. He gave everything to the team, the organization and I think everyone knows that. It makes me feel bad that hes gone, because its a reflection of our record, which is a reflection of the team. He was always accountable and made no excuses, but we definitely feel like we let him down.
The Panthers are 1-5, and several players noted that while Hurney took the blame for the product on the field, he did not participate in any of the action.
Steve Smith has known Hurney since the wide receiver was drafted by the Panthers in 2001, the year before Hurney was promoted to general manager. The veteran dismissed questions that Hurneys firing may serve as a wake-up call for the team.
If you need another man to get fired to understand what your job, I think you kind of missed it a little bit, Smith said. I think sometimes people are just saying stuff to find it, but Marty doesnt run any routes, doesnt catch any passes, doesnt throw, doesnt block. So if you need our GM to be fired, I dont think thats something that needs to be lit under you. Examples dont need to be laid by other men for people not doing their jobs.
Defensive end Charles Johnson showed more emotion than anyone with the firing. Before coming to the stadium, Johnson took to Twitter to call the firing unbelievable and that pointing to Hurney as the reason the Panthers have the worst record in the NFC is BS.
He was more filtered in front of reporters Monday, but he stood his ground on his opinion.
I didnt know the GM coached, Johnson said. If theyre blaming it on him then I guess hell just take the fall for it.
It is what it is. I just thought it was bad timing.
Rookie cornerback Josh Norman was more despondent. Norman, a fifth-round selection out of Coastal Carolina, is part of Hurneys final draft class at Carolina.
Fourteen cornerbacks were selected in the draft before Norman, now a starter, and he knows it could have been more had Hurney not seen promise in him.
He meant everything to me, Norman said. Hes the main reason Im here. He believed in me and what I could do and, just like, its so sad. ...
But were not going to let him down regardless. Hell always be that guy, that No. 1 guy for me regardless.