KAPOLEI, Hawaii — Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross traveled nearly 5,000 miles and crossed four time zones this week, but still couldn’t escape the question:
Will the Pro Bowl be his final game?
Gross again declined to give a definitive answer, saying he needed to discuss his future with his wife before sitting down with Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman during the offseason.
But based on comments from Gross and Gettleman, it sounds like the ball is in Gross’ court.
“I would assume that the team wants me back,” Gross said Wednesday before the second night of the Pro Bowl draft. “My relationship with the team is outstanding. I never wanted any type of suggestion that it was anything other than that.”
Gross, 33, the third-longest tenured player in team history, has said repeatedly the only team he will play for is the Panthers. And given where the Panthers are picking (28th) in the draft and the fact Gross is still playing at a Pro Bowl level, it’s unlikely the team will be pushing him into retirement.
Gross’ future has been a topic of conversation since last offseason, when he agreed to restructure his contract to help the team’s salary cap situation. Gross’ deal automatically voids Feb. 7, making him a free agent.
Gettleman spoke with Gross on Monday to ask if he wanted to go to Hawaii. Gross, who is making his third Pro Bowl appearance, was a replacement for San Francisco tackle Joe Staley, one of eight 49ers who pulled out of the game.
Gettleman said he plans to talk with Gross after he returns from Hawaii.
“I told him enjoy your time, have fun, and when you’re ready. And he gave the indication it won’t be tomorrow, or the day he gets back, but it’ll be in the next couple weeks that we talk,” Gettleman said.
“And he’s got to really want to do it. You remember when (Brett) Favre was going, ‘I’m in, I’m out, I’m in, I’m out,’ ” Gettleman added. “The thing he said that really said it all was Sundays are fun. It’s what you have to do to get to Sunday.”
Gross said he would never want to be a distraction, and wouldn’t play if his heart isn’t in it anymore.
“It does take a lot to do your job well and I would never cheapen football by signing up for something unless I was 100 percent into it,” Gross said. “My 2013 season is still continuing. I had one week off and now I’m back, busy. My relationship with Gettleman’s great. I’m looking forward to speaking to him and seeing what their plans are and what mine are.”
Jonathan Jones contributed.