UPDATE: I already have more respect for Jerricho Cotchery, who said on his conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon of the No.89: "I definitely wouldn't even think about touching that number." This news makes the blog below -- posted about 5 hours before Cotchery said that -- somewhat obsolete, but feel free to continue if you like..... Scott
If I am Jerricho Cotchery, there is no way I wear No.89 with the Carolina Panthers.
That's the number Cotchery wore last year in Pittsburgh, when he caught 10 touchdown passes and showed enough that the Panthers have signed him for 2014 after their four top wideouts of 2013 all walked out the door.
But Cotchery, a former N.C. State star, has to be smart enough to know that wearing No.89 in Charlotte would be a bad idea. He will already be incessantly compared to Steve Smith, the Panthers' best player of all time and another 30-something receiver who the Panthers controversially released last week (Smith had more receiving yards in 2013 than Cotchery, for what that's worth, but fewer TDs).
To wear No.89 in Charlotte puts Cotchery (who has worn the number in 9 of 10 seasons, as Joe Person points out) in a no-win situation -- he will just be compared to Smith all the more, and it's very difficult to win in that game. All those fans with No.89 jerseys in their closets won't like it. It will get Cotchery off on the wrong foot.
Far better, in fact, for the Panthers' very smart equipment man, Jackie Miles, to "unofficially" retire No.89 for now -- much like he seemed to for years with the No.51 and Sam Mills (the jersey was eventually retired, but Miles had pretty much mothballed it already, it seemed to me). No one should wear No.89 in the 2014 training camp. Too many memories. Too fresh. The debate as to whether the number should be permanently retired can be saved for another day -- I would come down in favor of that.
Let Cotchery pick his own number, one that doesn't have the weight of history behind it (unless it is N.C. State history -- in that case, as Joe Person points out, he should take No.82). And if he tries to insist on wearing No.89 anyway, someone over at Bank of America Stadium needs to save him from that mistake.