Looking to get younger on their special teams staff, the Carolina Panthers chose not to renew the contract of veteran assistant Russ Purnell.
Purnell, 67, was hired in May after special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven took a medical leave to begin treatment for prostate cancer. Panthers coach Ron Rivera told the Observer the decision to cut ties with Purnell was not performance-related.
DeHaven, 67, who continues to receive periodic treatments in Buffalo, will remain in his role.
“We’re just looking toward the future,” Rivera said Friday in a phone interview.
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Rivera said the Panthers will interview three candidates for Purnell’s position next week, including former linebacker and special teams contributor Chase Blackburn.
Blackburn, 32, played for the Panthers in 2013-14 before injuries ended his career. Blackburn is familiar with Carolina general manager Dave Gettleman from their time with the Giants.
Former Tampa Bay special teams coordinator Kevin O’Dea and ex-San Francisco assistant Thomas McGauhey also will interview, Rivera said.
O’Dea, 55, spent the past two seasons with the Buccaneers but was not retained by new Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter. O’Dea, a Pennsylvania native, worked with Rivera when both were on Lovie Smith’s staff in Chicago.
McGauhey, 42, has overseen the special teams for several NFL and college teams, most recently the 49ers. He won a Super Bowl with the Giants in 2007 when Gettleman was in New York.