Carolina Panthers

Panthers assistant Bruce DeHaven to step back as he continues cancer fight

Carolina Panthers special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven has decided to take a step back into an advisory role as he continues his fight with cancer.
Carolina Panthers special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven has decided to take a step back into an advisory role as he continues his fight with cancer. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Carolina Panthers assistant coach Bruce DeHaven will relinquish his role as special teams coordinator and step into an advisory position as he continues his battle with cancer.

DeHaven, 67, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the spring of 2015 and learned a short time later it had spread to his back. DeHaven left the team Sunday and will resume treatments in his offseason home of Buffalo, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after practice.

Rivera said DeHaven hopes to return in time for home opener against San Francisco in Week 2.

Thomas McGaughey, hired in February as the Panthers’ special teams assistant, will take over for DeHaven. Former Panthers and Giants linebacker Chase Blackburn, in his first year as a special teams intern, will assist McGaughey.

DeHaven will serve as an advisor for the special teams.

"Bruce didn't want to be a distraction. That's why Bruce isn't here today," Rivera said. "He wanted to go ... with the intention of coming back in the fall."

DeHaven took a leave of absence in May of 2015 to begin treatment after being told he might have three to five years to live. DeHaven returned for the Panthers’ 15-1 regular season and run to the Super Bowl, where he told reporters who asked about his illness he didn’t want to detract from the players by talking about it.

DeHaven has built a reputation as one of the NFL’s top special teams coaches over his 30 years in the league. He was with Buffalo for all four of the Bills’ Super Bowl losses in the 1990s, and was hired by Rivera in 2013 after DeHaven’s second stint with Buffalo.

DeHaven has been accompanied at training camp by his son, Toby Scott, a college sophomore named after former Bills kicker Scott Norwood. DeHaven and his wife also have a daughter in high school.

Rivera said DeHaven epitomizes the team's Keep Pounding motto, popularized after ex-Panthers linebacker Sam Mills used the expression while addressing the team in 2004 while he was battling cancer.

"The big thing more than anything else is he's still battling and we're all pulling and praying for Bruce," Rivera said. "I think a guy like him deserves the opportunity to still be part of what we're doing."

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

  Comments