CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Less than four months after receiving a heart transplant, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson says he's "doing great."
Richardson received applause from Panthers players when he rode a golf cart onto the practice field at the beginning of an optional workout Thursday. Wearing a dark jacket and a blue tie, Richardson, 72, appeared much thinner than he did before the surgery, but he also showed energy.
Attending his first practice in nearly a year, Richardson got up from his cart several times to shake hands of players and coaches.
One of the most influential NFL owners, Richardson received a new heart on Super Bowl Sunday, less than two months after being placed on the transplant list. He has since regained much of his strength and is responding well to treatment.
Richardson was driven to the practice field by former Bank of America CEO Hugh McColl. But McColl became a passenger when Richardson climbed behind the wheel of the golf cart.
A former teammate of Johnny Unitas with the Baltimore Colts, Richardson is the first ex-NFL player to own a team since George Halas in Chicago. Richardson's background has led to a close relationship with his players.
That bond was evident when players clapped as Richardson reached the field where they were stretching. He soon toured the practice complex, stopping first at the group of quarterbacks. He got up from his seat and shook Jake Delhomme's hand.
"He's not just an owner by name," Delhomme said. "He's one that many guys on the team have a relationship with and not just, 'Hey, how are you doing?' It's a true relationship where he knows your family and knows your kids. It's something that goes unnoticed, but that's the way he wants it.
"It was certainly great to see him out here. He certainly looks good."
Near the end of practice, Richardson drove his cart to a group of reporters and briefly chatted with them before leaving the field. He didn't stay to answer questions but said he was feeling well.
"All you have to do is look the reaction of everybody," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. "Players, coaches and staff, everybody was thrilled to see him. He just means so much to all of us. It lifted everybody's spirits."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press