Sunday, February 25, 2018
Sports

Assistant resigns to fight cancer

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — Panthers special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven has decided to step down from his position and move into an advisory role with the team while continuing his battle with prostate cancer.

The team announced Sunday that Thomas McGaughey has been promoted to special teams coordinator and Chase Blackburn to special teams assistant.

DeHaven, 67, will return to Buffalo, N.Y., to receive cancer treatments with the hopes of returning to the team as an adviser in mid September.

DeHaven was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2015 before his 29th season as an NFL assistant coach. He took a leave of absence in May 2015 but returned for Carolina's NFC championship season.

Coach Ron Rivera said DeHaven approached him about the decision to leave as coordinator after Thursday night's preseason game against the Ravens.

"He felt now was an opportunity to transition as far as our special teams were concerned so it would be seamless," Rivera said. "He did not want to be a distraction. He wanted to go quietly with the intention of coming back in the fall."

Under DeHaven, Panthers kicker Graham Gano scored a franchise-record 146 points. Gano converted 30 field goals, including two winners, and was named NFC special teams player of the month in November.

Returner Ted Ginn Jr. ranked second in the NFC and fifth in the NFL with 10.3 yards per punt return.

Rivera said DeHaven epitomizes the team's motto of "Keep Pounding," which came about when former linebackers coach Sam Mills was battling cancer.

Panthers long snapper J.J. Jansen said Sunday was a tough day for all who have a connection to Carolina's special teams.

"He has been rock solid," Jansen said. "He has been a good man and great mentor to all of us. The way he has handled and conducted himself (since learning about the cancer), you almost forget about it. You wouldn't have noticed a difference in the way he conducted himself."

Panthers safety Colin Jones said he was surprised to learn DeHaven was leaving the team for treatments.

"You never heard Bruce complain at all," Jones said.

PRESEASON GAME: Blaine Gabbert overcame a shaky start to throw a 43-yard touchdown to Vance McDonald before the Texans rallied in the second half against San Francisco's reserves to beat the host 49ers 24-13 in an exhibition opener. Brock Osweiler didn't fare as well in his Texans debut, failing to lead Houston to any points in three drives. San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat out with tightness in his throwing shoulder.

BEARS: Cornerback Kyle Fuller will miss the team's trip to New England this week because of an ailing knee.

FALCONS: Rookie starting safety Keanu Neal, the 17th overall draft pick out of Florida, was back at practice after missing last week's exhibition game with a torso injury.

GIANTS: Cornerback Eli Apple, the team's first-round draft pick this year, has a strained knee, and wide receiver Victor Cruz is still bothered by a groin problem. Both are listed as day to day.

TITANS: Guard Josue Matias, an undrafted free agent out of Florida State who spent last season on the practice squad, will need surgery to repair a torn patella tendon and is headed to injured reserve.

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