As Carolina offensive tackle Jordan Gross began to entertain questions about his expiring contract and possible retirement Monday, he stopped the interview to offer an announcement.
"They just offered me a new 10-year deal so I think I'm going to take that," Gross joked.
In reality, Gross, 33, may have played his last game for Carolina Sunday in the Panthers' 23-10 home playoff loss to San Francisco. I hope that is not the case. Gross is still the team's best tackle, whether he's playing on the left or right side, and this team would immediately get worse at an already iffy position if he decides he's had enough. They need more tackles, not less.
But Gross -- one of the best and most insightful players the Panthers have ever had --sounded perplexed at what his future holds on Monday. Although he is a two-time Pro Bowler and has started almost every Carolina game for the past 11 years since joining the team as a baby-faced rookie in 2003, he doesn't have an outsized view of his own place in the organization.
"You'd like to think you're irreplaceable and there's no way anybody could live without you," Gross said. "But that's not the truth. Every year, players much more important than me leave teams for one reason or another. And those teams survive and somehow make it the next year. There's a saying I've heard for the NFL, 'Everybody's useful. Nobody's necessary.' And that's really the truth of it."
Gross said he isn't interested in moving and will not play anywhere but for the Panthers in 2014. With his 2013 contract done -- he took a pay cut to stay with Carolina -- he now faces what he calls a "crossroads" in his life.
Gross will need to have some conversations with Panther head coach Ron Rivera and general manager Dave Gettleman sometime in the next few days, and then he will also have to think about what he wants.
"I'm looking forward to doing a bunch of drop-offs at school with my kids and taking a deep breath," Gross said. "If I'm playing, I'll play here. I just don't know yet."