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Ex-Latin star Chris Canty had hoped to join Carolina Panthers

Chris Canty arrived in Charlotte on Wednesday and was at Charlotte Latin the following day to host his annual Chris Canty Foundation Camp for Champions for hundreds of local children.

He’ll be in town for the weekend before bouncing between New York and Baltimore to train for the upcoming NFL season with his new team, the Ravens.

But this offseason, Canty, 30, was close to making his stay in Charlotte more permanent if his hometown team could have afforded him.

The 6-foot-7 defensive lineman said Carolina was on his short list of teams after the New York Giants released him after an injury-shortened season, but the Panthers were facing a cap quagmire that wouldn’t allow them to acquire the nine-year veteran.

“They needed a lot of players. I think the direction they wanted to go was to get as many quality players as they could at a bargain price,” Canty said. “Quite frankly, I wasn’t going to be able to come in and play for what they would have liked, what they could have afforded.”

The Panthers entered the offseason nearly $16 million over the salary cap when the Giants released Canty from his original six-year, $42 million contract in early February. He played nine games in 2012 after missing most of the season on the physically unable to perform list recovering from off-season knee surgery.

Canty said he talked with new Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman, who played an integral part in signing Canty to New York in 2009 as the team’s pro personnel director.

But strapped for cash, Gettleman couldn’t make a respectable offer to Canty, who eventually signed a three-year, $8 million deal with Baltimore.

“He understood that and I understood and we had to move forward. I wish him nothing but the best. He’s going to build a winner down here, no question about it,” Canty said.

“(I like) his blue collar mentality. He’s just going to put on his hard hat and go to work. It’s nothing flashy but it works. The team is going to be hard-working. Coach (Ron) Rivera is a great coach. He’s an even better man once you get to know him. I have no doubt this team will turn it around and get it going down the right track.”

According to a Baltimore Sun report, Canty had a “dominant” minicamp this month, and the Ravens envision a versatile role for the lineman.

Canty joined a Ravens team that lost more starters (six) from a Super Bowl winning team than any other in NFL history. Despite the perceived dismantling of the team, Canty said it’s not necessarily a bad thing, and that general manager Ozzie Newsome has done a good job of putting the team back together.

He referenced the 2012 Giants team that, after winning the Super Bowl the previous year, did little to its roster and missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record—a season that Canty called “disastrous.”

“You got to put your team together anew every year,” Canty said. “I think a lot of fans don’t realize that. There’s so much turnover in the National Football League that really you’re not fielding the same team year in and year out. You’ve got to replace guys every year.”

With the switch from a 4-3 defense to 3-4, Canty shed more than 25 pounds to get to a leaner 295 pounds as a defensive end. It’s the slimmest he’s been since he started the camp at Charlotte Latin in 2007 following his third year in the league.

Canty starred at Latin as an undersized defensive end for his junior and senior seasons, earning him a scholarship to the University of Virginia in 2002 before the Dallas Cowboys drafted him in 2005.

This year he said 315 kids ages 8-16 registered for the camp where he, the Johnson C. Smith football staff and Latin football coach Larry McNulty taught participants agility and moving skills along with speed training.

The camp was free for the kids, with Canty requesting they perform community service through his foundation as a form of payback.

“There are so many young kids here and I wanted to improve the football skills and the talent base here, but also teach kids life lessons through a game that I love,” Canty said. “What better way to learn hard work and discipline than though football? Communication, leadership skills are all things you can work on through this great game.”

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