Panthers offensive tackle Jordan Gross spent eight seasons playing for head coach John Fox, so he expects it to be a little different Sunday when he looks across the field at Bank of America Stadium and sees Fox coaching the Denver Broncos.
"I have a pretty good feeling of what the pep talks are going to be like and the message leading up to the game," Gross said.
What might that be?
"It was more of a joke," Gross said. "But it's probably beat the Panthers."
If bringing his Broncos (5-3) into Bank of America Stadium is a game Fox has had circled on his calendar since the NFL schedule was announced, he's keeping it to himself. On a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon, Fox talked in generalities about his nine seasons as the Panthers' head coach but didn't dwell on his feelings.
"I've been at this for 25 years and I've had a lot of homecomings so it'll be good to get back and see some old friends and relationships I built over nine years there. It's a business trip and we're getting our team ready," Fox said.
Fox may be treating it like just another road game, no different from the Broncos' trip to Cincinnati last weekend, but this one comes with a built-in history.
For one thing, Fox said he plans to drop by the house he still owns at Quail Hollow Club. He doesn't coach here any more but he's kept the house on the 14th hole and still has friends in the Charlotte area.
Fox's nine seasons with the Panthers didn't end well he left after the team went 2-14 in 2010 but he's moved into another phase of his career with quarterback Peyton Manning and Executive Vice President of Football Operations John Elway in Denver.
"I have a philosophy that setbacks are sometimes setups for better things to come," Fox said. "It was a tough season to go to 2-14. In my 20-some years of experience, I've never experienced a record like that. This game is only fun when you win."
Are his Panthers' memories more good or bad?
"I tend to approach things as the glass half full," Fox said. "We did get to the Super Bowl and we got to a couple of championship games, had three playoff appearances so by most people's calculations that's pretty good. ...
"I spent nine years there. They gave me my first opportunity as a head coach so I look forward to seeing everybody."
Fox probably won't see Marty Hurney, who was fired as general manager earlier this season. Fox and Hurney worked together throughout the coach's nine seasons in Charlotte and have been in touch since Hurney's departure, Fox said.
"Obviously (I'm) disappointed for him. I spent nine years with him in the trenches," said Fox, who had a 79-75 record with the Panthers. "It's unfortunate. In this business, it happens to everybody. The tough part about it is it's a tough business. I have a lot of good memories with Marty and wish him nothing but the best moving forward."
In what has become a familiar theme on both sides, Fox downplayed his return to Charlotte saying he's not playing Sunday. Panthers coach Ron Rivera had a similar comment this week, saying it's a game between the players and, from his perspective, the less said about the coaches the better.
Gross said he hasn't talked with Fox since his departure but he has stayed in touch with former Panthers offensive line coach Dave Magazu, who went to Denver with Fox. Even that, Gross said, has gone quiet as the Denver game has approached.
"If everybodys being honest, Foxy definitely wants to beat us and we want to beat him," Gross said. "Thats not because its a bad relationship or bad blood, but anytime you play someone youre familiar with you want to get the upper hand. I know this would mean a lot to the team and organization."