|Carolina Panthers beef up defensive line with real McCoy|
|Six-time Pro Bowler adds to interior wall|
|Published Tuesday, June 4, 2019 6:30 pm|
|PHOTO | ASHLEY MAHONEY|
|Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy answers a question during an introductory press conference Tuesday at Bank of America Stadium. Carolina won McCoy’s services with a one-year, $10.5 million deal.|
Gerald McCoy went from being the only elite defensive player on one team to an elite defensive line.
The six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle who parted ways with Tampa Bay in free agency signed a reported $10.5 million, one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers Tuesday. McCoy has produced six or more sacks per season since his career-high 9.5 sacks in 2013; he has 54.5 for his career.
Carolina drafted edge rusher Brian Burns in the first round of April’s NFL Draft and acquired defensive end/linebacker Bruce Irvin through free agency from Atlanta in March in response to the retirement of defensive end Julius Peppers, Carolina’s career sacks leader. General manager Marty Hurney noted they would address their needs via free agency and the draft, and McCoy adds another versatile piece to that puzzle. Coach Ron Rivera has introduced a 3-4 defense in addition to the team’s traditional 4-3 defense.
“If you can play football, you can play football,” McCoy said. “I’m a defensive lineman, so being a defensive lineman requires you to be like a Swiss Army Knife. You’ve gotta play nose. You’ve gotta play three [technique between guard and center]. You’ve gotta play five [outside the offensive tackle].
“You gotta be able to play everything. I think coach [Eric] Washington has a great plan in place, and we have all the pieces necessary to be wherever and just find the best matchups. You got a guy like Luke Kuechly and another guy like Shaq Thompson behind you, man, they’ll make you right, so I’m excited about that.”
McCoy, who visited the Panthers on May 31, was linked to several teams, but visited only Cleveland and Baltimore before Carolina.
“I thought he was received very well,” Rivera said. “Gerald is a solid football player. He’s a guy we most certainly are interested in, would love to have here, be part of what we’re doing.”
Rivera and McCoy had breakfast at Famous Toastery during his visit. McCoy had lunch at Fern with Thompson and Christian McCaffrey, as well as fellow Pro Bowlers Kuechly, Trai Turner, Greg Olsen and Kawann Short.
“They could’ve been doing anything,” McCoy said. “It could’ve been some guys who were like, ‘if he comes, if he doesn’t, whatever.’ Those guys showing up and actually being in tune and being excited to be there—I’m a vegan, and we went to a vegan restaurant. We walked in, and we were talking for a second, and then it kind of got silent.”
Short and Turner even asked a question about McCoy’s diet.
“The two biggest dudes at the table, KK and Trai were like, ‘man, what’s up with this vegan?’ but they were there, and that means a lot,” McCoy said. “They were like, ‘we gotta get this dude.’ We had a great time, great fellowship. I left that lunch feeling like I could fit right in here.”
McCoy has been vegan for five months after an experience at NFL Honors in February as a Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee pushed him in that direction.
“The next day we were supposed to go to the Super Bowl and be introduced, but they didn’t tell us that we were going to get introduced after the two teams got introduced,” McCoy said. “They’ve got us standing in the middle of the field while these teams are getting introduced, and I said to myself, ‘you know what, you need to do everything in your power to be able to feel that feeling.’ Knowing I was getting up in age, my joints were starting to hurt, I had a lot of friends who were trying to push me to be vegan. One in particular—Derrick Morgan—I just hit him up, and was like, ‘you know what, what the heck, man. I’m gonna try it. It’s worked for me, and I feel great. I just wanted to do whatever I could do to experience that feeling.”
McCoy’s change in teams for the first time in his professional career, as well as his switch to veganism, coincide with the documentary he and his wife, Ebony, are working on about their experience. Its working title is “Transition.”
“At the end of the season last year, I told my wife, ‘you know what, it’s about to be my 10th season, and I think it will be great to document this season, just the offseason in general,’” McCoy said. “We’re working with a videographer and a producer…it’s all about transition. Moving to a new city. I’m a family man, and it’ll be different to not be around my family all the time. I’m excited about what the future holds, though.”
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