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Panthers’ Rivera, Kuechly, Davis up for AP awards

Scott Fowler is a national award-winning sports columnist for The Charlotte Observer.
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Jeff Siner - jsiner@charlotteobserver.com
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, above, is nominated for AP coach of the year and linebacker Luke Kuechly for AP defensive player of the year. The awards, which will be announced Saturday night, are generally considered the most prestigious in the NFL community.

NEW YORK Several Carolina Panthers will be up for major awards Saturday night at the NFL Honors show at Radio City Music Hall, which will be telecast from 8-10 p.m. on Fox.

The most notable candidates include Ron Rivera for AP coach of the year and linebacker Luke Kuechly for AP defensive player of the year. The AP awards, voted on by a nationwide panel of 50 media members who cover the league regularly, are generally considered the most prestigious in the NFL community.

Linebacker Thomas Davis is also one of three finalists for Walter Payton Man of the Year, an award presented to a player who goes above and beyond in his community work.

Rivera, Kuechly and Davis are all expected to attend the show, as are Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, former Panthers defensive end Mike Rucker and current quarterback Cam Newton. It should be a fun night, and I will be there covering it live for The Observer (and on Twitter: @Scott_Fowler).

Former Panthers linebacker/defensive end Kevin Greene has also made the last cut for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Greene is among 17 finalists, with somewhere from 5-7 men likely making it into the hall. He will learn his fate Saturday.

Greene, now 51, played three of his 15 NFL seasons with the Panthers. When he retired following the 1999 season, he ranked third on the NFL’s all-time sack list with 160.

Greene was a member of the NFL’s All-Decade team of the 1990s but will face stiff competition, including a similar hybrid LB/DE in Charles Haley and other men like coach Tony Dungy, defensive end Michael Strahan, running back Jerome Bettis and wide receivers Marvin Harrison and Andre Reed. This is Greene’s 10th year of hall of fame eligibility; he has been a finalist two other times.

If Greene does make it, he will become only the second man who has played in any games for the Panthers to make the hall. The late Reggie White was the first – he played one season for Carolina but made the hall of fame on the strength of his sack prowess at Philadelphia and Green Bay.

•  I noted in a story earlier this week that N.C. State has four players with key roles in this Super Bowl (Seattle’s Russell Wilson, J.R. Sweezy and Steven Hauschka and Denver’s Nate Irving). I forgot to point out that Seattle coach Pete Carroll also was an assistant coach for the Wolfpack in the early 1980s.

•  Former Carolina coach John Fox has handled all sorts of questions from the media this week, including one from a Chinese reporter on Tuesday about the upcoming Chinese New Year. I have to give Fox credit for being nimble with that one, as the Denver Broncos coach said quickly he was happy that the new year was the “Year of the Horse.”

Fowler: 704-358-5140; sfowler@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @scott_fowler
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