Quitter? Collins impresses Ditka

No player ever has been drawn and quartered, decapitated or otherwise dismembered in a football game before. But there’s always a first time.

The Carolina Panthers face the New Orleans Saints next Sunday, marking quarterback Kerry Collins’ first return to Ericsson Stadium since he was waived by the Panthers Oct. 13 and picked up by the Saints a day later. New Orleans coach Mike Ditka indicated Collins might actually be the starter by then.

“Eventually, Kerry will be in there, I’ll say that outright,” Ditka said last week. “There’s a good chance he’ll be the No. 2 quarterback [today vs. Tampa Bay]. He’ll play down the line. It may be this week. It may be next week.

“He has great arm strength, great awareness and great size. He stands in there, and he moves around, too. He’s picking up the system. Believe me, none of this is brain surgery.”

No, but it might require a heart transplant. Collins, you’ll recall, met with Panthers coach Dom Capers on Oct. 7 and said his “heart wasn’t into” quarterbacking Carolina after the team dropped to 0-4. Collins later denied saying that, although Capers stands by his story and panthers players confirm Collins said the same thing to them as well.

Collins is now trying to convince the Saints he has the heart to play with them.

“I know people read things and a lot of people take that as gospel,” Collins told reporters in New Orleans, “but that’s not always the case. As the guys see how I am and see how I practice, they won’t believe all that stuff.”

The Panthers believe differently. Some called Collins a “quitter.” Others said they had no respect for him anymore.

There’s no telling what they’ll do to Collins if he shows up behind center next week. But it will be worth watching.

Who knows? Maybe Panthers fans will actually show up for this one.
Oct. 25, 98