SPARTANBURG -- I don't ultimately think it will be a huge deal, but the Panthers got snookered by New England in the Tyler Gaffney situation.
Waiving Gaffney after he tore up his knee at Fan Fest Friday was a calculated risk and one the Panthers did not have to take at this point. But NFL teams so rarely claim players off waivers the Panther thought it was worth it and that they would simply get Gaffney onto their own injured reserve list. New England then stepped in and claimed Gaffney, leaving the Panthers no longer holding rights to their sixth-round draft pick of 2014 and also out the $96,000 signing bonus they gave him.
Panther coach Ron Rivera called New England's claim "disappointing" and "surprising" but said that it wasn't against any unwritten rule. He also echoed Panther general manager Dave Gettleman's defense that Carolina needed the roster spot for a healthy running back.
"Wow, that was a tough one," Rivera said when asked about losing Gaffney Tuesday afternoon. "Surprising, you know. We had him slated to have surgery and all that. But new England, I knew they liked him coming out of the draft. So they made a move so we'll go from there. Disappointing. You'd love to be able to keep him."
It's true the Panthers needed the roster spot -- eventually -- but they certainly could have waived any of a number of other guys at other positions and not exposed Gaffney so quickly. I don't ultimately believe Gaffney is going to be anything close to an NFL star, but on this one the Panthers messed up. Gettleman likes to call draft picks "gold" in his pre-draft conversations. A bit of Carolina's gold was stolen Monday.
-- What's interesting about this, too, is that Carolina and New England keep bumping into each other in strange ways. There was Luke Kuechly's "Immaculate Perception" in the end zone against Rob Gronkowski last season -- no pass interference was called on a play that sure looked like PI -- that clinched Carolina's win over the Patriots. And of course there was that Super Bowl.
-- I keep looking down at my roster to see who No.83 is, because he keeps coming up with the ball in the end zone. It's rookie free agent Marcus Lucas, out of Missouri, and he's going to be a factor in the preseason.