Scott Fowler

Panthers’ Jerricho Cotchery reflects on career, looks forward to Opening Day

The Panthers' Jerricho Cotchery scored 10 touchdowns in 2013 with Pittsburgh but had only this one against Tampa Bay in December in his first year at Carolina in 2014.
The Panthers' Jerricho Cotchery scored 10 touchdowns in 2013 with Pittsburgh but had only this one against Tampa Bay in December in his first year at Carolina in 2014. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

Jerricho Cotchery has lasted much longer than the average NFL wide receiver. He finished up at N.C. State in 2003 and has been in the league ever since. At 33, this will be his 12th NFL season and his second with the Panthers.

Cotchery won’t start for Carolina in 2015 but is expected to be a key possession receiver. I asked him five questions.

Q. You have seen a whole lot of Opening Days. What is your best memory among your previous 11 seasons?

A. For me, when you say Opening Day, I just always have that visual of my first Opening Day in New York with the Jets. I know the team we were playing against was the Cincinnati Bengals. Right after the coin toss but before the kickoff, the jets flew over the stadium. At that moment, I just realized that I have accomplished a lifelong dream. So for my Opening Day, I always go back to that moment and it’s always fresh.

Q. What do you think you will be feeling on Sunday five minutes before kickoff in Jacksonville?

A. Some of the same emotions I had that very first day. You’re always excited for the start of the year, especially when you have a good team like this right here that is in pursuit of a world championship. I always like to look beside me during the national anthem and see who’s lining up next to me. It’s always a good feeling to have your guys around you.

In his first season with Carolina, in 2014, Jerricho Cotchery had 48 catches for 580 yards and one TD.

Q. This team’s offense sputtered a good bit in 2014. Can the offense hold up its end of the bargain this season?

A. I think we can. We have a lot of good players on offense, a lot of unselfish players, and I think it’s all going to come together. We’ve got guys willing to put in the work.

Q. But what about the wide receivers? You lost your No. 1 guy, in Kelvin Benjamin, for the year. Without Kelvin, are the receivers strong enough?

A. When guys go down, there are always going to be questions. Obviously KB is a big loss. He was primed for another great year. But we have guys who are going to do the job.

I always reflect back to 2013 when I was in Pittsburgh. They were questioning whether or not Antonio Brown could be a No. 1 receiver because he’s 5-foot-10. And they were questioning whether or not Emmanuel Sanders could hold up because he’s also a smaller receiver. They were questioning that group as a whole and we know what that’s turned out to be – both those guys are great. So you have to hold your judgment and let guys work and see what happens.

Q. You have started 86 NFL games in your career but you aren’t expected to be a starter in 2015 with this team. Is starting a point of pride for you?

A. No, it’s not. The point of pride for me is when I’m called to go in there and make plays. That’s what it’s going to be about for everybody. We’ve done a good job of creating a lot of depth. There are a lot of guys on this team who are not starters but who can play.

  Comments