The Big Cat was back Thursday at Panthers practice, and he looked lean and mean.
Jerry Richardson’s surprise appearance had the same sort of effect on Carolina’s workout as it used to when the principal unexpectedly walked into the room where your teacher was teaching to “observe” the class. Everyone sat up a little straighter.
SO every Panther seemed to run a little faster Thursday while Richardson looked on from a golf cart, old banking buddy Hugh McColl Jr. at his side. Richardson has obviously lost weight since his heart transplant in early February. He looked fit.
As I wrote in Wednesday’s paper, Richardson could and should give PR lessons to Michael Jordan if Jordan ever ends up joining him as a majority owner of a Charlotte pro sports franchise.
OThe thing about Richardson’s people skills, though, that can't be duplicated – they aren’t the least bit fake. Richardson has always been a genteel Southern charmer, arm-twisting so adeptly that people find themselves going along with him before they’re even sure what they’ve agreed to.
A crowd of about a dozen media types awaited Richardson on his golf cart at the end of practice, hopeful of getting one of Richardson’s rare group interviews.
Richardson wasn’t about to give one of those, you could tell. But rather than zipping by with a quick, royalty-inspired wave (par for the course for most owners I've been around in this sort of situation), Richardson stopped the cart, got out, shook everyone’s hand and introduced himself to the few media members he didn’t know. Then he made a little small talk and thanked everyone for their thoughts, prayers and letters during his surgery and recovery.
Then Richardson got back in and sped off in the golf cart, leaving an aura of good feelings – without ever giving the interview.
I’m telling you, the Big Cat has still got it.