|Injury-plagued Morgan plans to play next season - somewhere|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 04 January 2008 13:07|
``I definitely want to come back and play,'' Morgan said as he left Bank of America Stadium this week. ``Whether it's here, I'm not sure.''
With the emergence of rookie Jon Beason, who finished second in the voting Friday to San Francisco's Patrick Willis for The Associated Press NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award, Morgan may be looking for work soon.
After Morgan's latest injury, a partial tear to his right Achilles' tendon in Week 3, Beason moved from outside linebacker to replace Morgan in the middle. Veteran Na'il Diggs moved to Beason's old spot.
Beason led the team in tackles with his energetic and speedy play. Diggs played well enough to get a three-year contract extension last weekend.
That would appear to leave no room for Morgan, who had to take a pay cut to return this season. General manager Marty Hurney has been in a series of personnel meetings this week and has not made any decisions public.
``I'm sure at some point in the near future I'll have some discussions with the Panthers,'' Morgan's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, said Friday. ``If we can work things out with them, that would be fine. If that's not a possibility, there are 31 other teams and I'll find a good opportunity for him.''
If Morgan is finished with Carolina, he'll be remembered as a dominant player with a fragile body.
He had a stunning 25 tackles in the Super Bowl loss to New England in the 2003 season, made the Pro Bowl a year later and routinely made spectacular plays with his exceptional speed and instincts. But Morgan, Carolina's first-round pick in 2001, can't stay on the field. In seven seasons, he's played in 59 games and missed 53.
Morgan, who never missed a game in high school or college, sat out five games as a rookie with a broken leg. He missed eight games a year later with groin and shoulder injuries. He hurt his hamstring in 2003, and later sustained the first of at least five concussions.
Entering this season, the biggest concern was Morgan's head. He missed the final 15 games of 2006 after sustaining two concussions in a month. After a year off and countless tests, Morgan was cleared to return.
Wearing a helmet with extra padding and a special mouthpiece, Morgan started the first three games this season, only to get injured on Sept. 23 against Atlanta. He never saw the field again, undergoing surgery a month later. Rosenhaus said Friday that Morgan's Achilles' tendon is completely repaired and he'll be ready for offseason workouts.
``He's going to be healthy, and he's looking forward to playing,'' Rosenhaus said. ``It was a great relief to us this year that he did not have any relapses in terms of the concussions.''
Well-respected in the locker room, many teammates want the Panthers to give Morgan another chance.
``If it's up to me, I would have him back,'' Beason said. ``If I had to move outside or if he had to move outside, we would be willing to accommodate each other. We want to play with each other, I think.
``Even if they don't ask me, I will tell them I want him back.''
It may not matter. Morgan seemed resigned to having to play elsewhere next season as he carried his belongings out of the stadium this week. He wished reporters well if he didn't see them again.
``Next year, whether it's here or somewhere, I'm going to play,'' said Morgan, who turned 29 last month. ``It'll be my eighth year. I've missed a lot of games, but I feel healthy. And once I'm healed up, I'll be ready to go.''