As our collective Super Bowl hangover subsides, I’ve been thinking ...
POOR MKG: I feel terrible for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who has suffered the same serious right shoulder injury twice in the past five months. MKG is a tremendous young man and a tremendous player, too. The Hornets were 5-2 in the games he played since coming back from his first torn labrum.
MKG is the Thomas Davis of the Charlotte Hornets defense – quick, smart and a natural leader.
With him, the Hornets can play with anyone. Without him – and for his long-term health, it really should be a given that MKG won’t play the rest of this season – I don’t think they will make the playoffs. We won’t see the post-MKG results in person, for awhile, though. The Hornets don’t have another home game until March 1 since the CIAA tournament will soon take over Time Warner Cable Arena.
HOG MOLLY HEAVEN: I recently wrote that the Panthers should draft an offensive tackle in the early rounds of the NFL draft (which is April 28-30). And an offensive tackle would be a good choice – but in the second round or later.
In the first round, with their No. 30 overall pick, the Panthers should take a pass-rushing defensive end to pair with Kony Ealy. I believe both Charles Johnson and Jared Allen will be gone in 2016, and neither was very productive this past season anyway.
We saw in the Super Bowl what twin tornadoes on each side of the defense can do. Carolina needs another pass rusher on the edge in a big way.
ONE YEAR AWAY: We are only a year away from Charlotte hosting the NBA All-Star Weekend in 2017. The actual all-star game will be played on Feb. 19, 2017. It will be the second time Charlotte has hosted it (the first came in 1991).
The year 2017, in fact, will be one of the biggest in Charlotte sports history. The city will also host the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow Club, as well as the ACC football championship (the ACC football title game will be played in Charlotte every year through 2019).
N.C. State and South Carolina will also open the college football season at Bank of America Stadium in September 2017. By comparison, 2016 will be a slightly quieter sports year in the Queen City.
MORE FUTBOL IN CHARLOTTE: I hear rumblings that another big soccer event will soon be announced as coming to Charlotte and Bank of America Stadium in the summer of 2016.
Charlotte has hosted several world-class soccer events with aplomb in the past couple of years, usually featuring national teams from other countries or some of the top professional clubs from Europe. Two games played in Charlotte in the summer of 2015 were huge hits, drawing an average of 58,500 fans.
WAS MILLER’S BAT ILLEGAL? If you look closely at Cam Newton’s second fumble of the Super Bowl – you know, the one in the fourth quarter that the quarterback made a business decision not to jump on – you will notice that something illegal may have happened on that play.
Super Bowl MVP Von Miller caused the fumble with a strip-sack and tried to dive on it. But when he found the ball in an awkward position near his hand, instead of trying to pull it in he pushed it behind him – batting it about 5 yards closer to Carolina’s goal line, where Denver would recover and soon score the clinching TD.
This was technically an “illegal bat,” in my opinion. If it had been called, Carolina would have retained the ball, because you can’t purposely knock the ball toward the other team’s goal line without trying to pick it up yourself.
But in real time it happened so quickly, and was so subtle, that I’m not surprised the officials didn’t see it. (On the other hand, officials really should have seen that offside call on Denver on Graham Gano’s missed field goal. That one was pretty obvious.)
Would a penalty for Miller’s bat have changed the outcome of the game? Ultimately, I don’t think so. But it sure would have made it interesting.
ONE MORE FUMBLE NOTE: Newton should have tried to jump on that fumble, of course. The Super Bowl in the fourth quarter? That’s the one time you don’t try to save your body.
But having seen Newton play on a day-to-day basis for five years, I know he’s tough. You know he’s tough. He didn’t make that error because he was soft. How many times has he sacrificed his body, taking on three defensive players at once, just to fight for one extra yard? This was a mental error, not a physical one – a hesitation at exactly the wrong time.
PANTHERS OPENER IN DENVER? It certainly will be a temptation for the NFL’s schedule makers to send Carolina to play at Denver in a Super Bowl rematch on Thursday, Sept. 8. As defending champs, the Broncos will get to host the NFL’s first regular-season game of the 2016 season on that date.
We won’t know whether that will happen for a couple of months, since the NFL schedule usually isn’t announced until mid-April.
My guess, though, is that the Panthers won’t go to Denver for the Thursday opener. The NFL opener traditionally gets a huge TV number no matter who the opponent is, so using the Panthers chip right there doesn’t make much sense for schedule-makers. I bet the Panthers and Denver will ultimately play a Sunday night game at Mile High Stadium later in the season.
However it shakes out, Carolina’s 2016 schedule will be very high-profile and won’t lend itself easily to another 15-1 season. The Panthers play each of the three teams they played in the playoffs – Seattle and Denver on the road and Arizona at home – as well as games against 2015 playoff teams Washington, Minnesota and Kansas City.