Ex-Giants trying to instill winning attitude in Panthers

jperson@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 19, 2013 

With his teammates still reeling from their heartbreaking loss to Buffalo, Panthers linebacker Chase Blackburn stood up in the defensive meeting Monday and gave them a history lesson.

Blackburn, who spent his first eight seasons with New York, told Carolina players about the Giants’ 2007 season, which began with losses to Dallas and Green Bay in which the Giants were outscored 80-48.

New York proceeded to win six in a row, finish 10-6 and become one of only three teams since 1990 to win the Super Bowl after starting 0-2.

With the Giants and Panthers both winless heading into their game Sunday at Bank of America Stadium, Blackburn wanted to remind his new Carolina teammates that all is not lost.

“Things aren’t out of the realm. These last two weeks obviously we’d like to have two plays or three plays back in each game, and correct it, and be 2-0. But at the end of the day, you’re only 0-2,” Blackburn said Thursday. “You’re not out of any race or anything like that. We haven’t lost a division game. Those are all important things to keep in mind. The main objective’s still intact right now.”

That attitude and willingness to speak up are among the reasons the Panthers signed Blackburn to a two-year deal as a free agent, despite having good depth at linebacker.

The Panthers liked the championship experience that Blackburn and wide receiver Domenik Hixon, another ex-Giant who signed with the Panthers during the offseason, could offer a team trying to learn to win.

Blackburn and Hixon were among the offseason moves made by Panthers first-year general manager Dave Gettleman, who spent 13 years as the Giants’ pro personnel director before succeeding Marty Hurney in Carolina in January.

“Dave is very thorough, he’s very knowledgeable,” Giants coach Tom Coughlin said this week. “He’s been evaluating talent for a long time, he’s very good at it and I think it shows in his roster.”

Blackburn and Hixon were part of the Giants’ Super Bowl-winning teams in 2007 and 2011, and Gettleman thought both would bring professionalism to the locker room and practice field.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning said both were great team players and leaders in New York.

“They’ll do whatever they’re told,” Manning said. “Whether they’re asked to step in and be a starter or be a backup or play special teams, or told to go anywhere and play any position, they’ll do it.”

Blackburn and Hixon, who were college teammates at Akron, have been waiting their turn with the Panthers. Blackburn has yet to take a defensive snap; Hixon was in for two plays in the loss at Buffalo.

Neither has complained.

“I understood when I got here what the situation was going to be. Obviously, I’m doing everything I can to get on the football field, rotating at every spot, playing every special team,” Blackburn said.

“I told them, if I’m not starting at linebacker, I’m playing every special team. I feel like that’s been good and feel like I’ve contributed there. Also, you want to get on the defensive field. But my time will come hopefully at some point, and I’ll be ready for it.”

Hixon was slowed by a hamstring injury during the preseason, and is behind Ted Ginn Jr. as the third wideout.

Hixon has noticed a couple of Giants traditions Gettleman has implemented in Charlotte, including requiring players to wear suits on road trips. Blackburn said he’s been told the Panthers’ daily schedule is tighter under Gettleman than it was in the past.

And though the Panthers can’t compare with the Giants’ tradition of winning, Blackburn said their mission is the same.

“We’re talking about winning. That’s a good thing. But at the same point, you can’t just talk about it. You’ve got to prove it on the field,” Blackburn said. “But these guys, it’s in their minds. It’s not a secondary thing. It’s your only objective is to win.”

Hixon and Blackburn hope the winning starts this weekend against their old team.

Person: 704-358-5123; Twitter: @josephperson

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