Carolina Panthers special teams coach Bruce DeHaven will talk about the year he worked for Donald Trump coaching in the USFL, his four Super Bowl losses with the Buffalo Bills in the 1990s and his belief that the NFL has to do something to make onside kicks safer.
But DeHaven doesn’t want to talk about his cancer.
DeHaven was diagnosed with prostate cancer last spring and took a six-week leave to return to Buffalo to undergo hormone treatments to fight the disease. DeHaven, 67, returned to Buffalo throughout the season for monthly treatments, but never missed a practice.
DeHaven says he feels good, albeit a little tired.
“But I’m getting older and it’s been a long season,” DeHaven said Thursday. “So that might have had something to do with it.”
DeHaven believes his cancer is a non-story and jokes that half the players have probably forgotten he’s sick. And while DeHaven did interviews on the subject last summer, he says now he would prefer to keep the matter private among his family.
This team reminds me of the chemistry we had on the Bills teams when I was them in the ’90s, going to all those Super Bowls.
Panthers special teams coach Bruce DeHaven
He’d rather than chats about other topics. And after 30 years in the NFL, DeHaven seen a lot. And DeHaven would put this Panthers team up with any he’s been a part of in terms of cohesiveness.
“This is a good group. This team reminds me of the chemistry we had on the Bills teams when I was them in the ’90s, going to all those Super Bowls,” DeHaven said. “These guys like each other. They seem to spend a lot of time with each other. There’s just a feel for the team that I didn’t get in some of the other places I’ve been.”
Some of the Panthers’ younger players joke about DeHaven’s old-school approach. He gives out a T-shirt each week to the special teams player who had the best game, which is followed by a cheer in the meeting.
But Panthers coach Ron Rivera says DeHaven has been an important part of his staff.
“He’s a guy that’s been through it. He’s been through these types of games and situations and seasons. He’s been involved with some really good football teams,” Rivera said. “There’s an air of experience, a guy that you listen to and pay attention to.”
DeHaven’s special teams allowed a 50-yard kickoff return to Seattle’s Tyler Lockett that helped kick-start the Seahawks’ comeback attempt in last week’s divisional round.
But special teams also sealed the victory when outside linebacker Thomas Davis recovered Steven Hauschka’s onside attempt with 1:11 remaining. DeHaven explained his rationale for using mostly defensive players on the “hands team,” including Davis and cornerback Josh Norman as the designees to catch the ball off the big bounce.
“They sometimes hang in there with that kind of an onslaught from the kickoff team better than the wide receivers do,” DeHaven said. “Plus, Thomas Davis is a great athlete. Him and Josh Norman, there aren’t a lot of guys on our team that are better athletes than those two.”
DeHaven also praised the athleticism and playmaking abilities of the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson, who returned four punt returns for touchdowns as a rookie in 2011 but has none in the four years since.
“Despite what any of his numbers might be, I think he’s more dangerous than any of the guys we’ve covered this year,” DeHaven said. “He’s a first-round choice, high draft pick. We’ve seen what he did a couple years ago. I guess people game-plan for him, try to keep the ball out of his hands.”