Panthers LT Gross pledges to be ready for 2010 after breaking leg

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross broke his right leg, not his ankle, as the team first announced, but he still plans on being ready for the start of next season.

Wearing a large cast and leaning on crutches, Gross visited his teammates at Bank of America Stadium on Monday for the first time since suffering the gruesome, season-ending injury during a Nov. 15 game against the Atlanta Falcons.

"For next season, I have no concerns at all," said Gross, who made his first Pro Bowl last season.

Gross was blocking defensive end John Abraham in the second quarter when Falcons defensive tackle Vance Walker rolled into the lineman's right leg, breaking the tibia and fibula.

"Everyone hears it pop and everyone panics, so I was like, 'Don't panic,'" Gross said. "Then I rolled out, and from below my calf down was pointing out to the right. I mean, I'm not a doctor, but I figured it wasn't good."

Panthers coach John Fox said after the game that Gross fractured his ankle, but the lineman said he broke both major bones in his lower leg. He had rods, plates and screws inserted during surgery immediately after the game.

Gross spent two nights in the hospital, then was in considerable discomfort until last weekend. He'll be on crutches for six more weeks, and the healing process will take about three months.

"It was like the perfect break," Gross said. "Nothing down in my ankle, no fractures, no ligament or cartilage damage. Once it heals up, they say it'll be stronger than before, because I'll have titanium down in there."

Gross' loss was a tough blow for the Panthers, who shifted left guard Travelle Wharton to left tackle. Second-year pro Mackenzy Bernadeau took over for Wharton.

The new line struggled to protect quarterback Jake Delhomme during the Panthers' 24-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins on Thursday.

"Friday morning, I got a call from him early," Delhomme said of Gross. "I think he said it best, 'If you guys had won by 30, I would have felt so much better.' It's crushing because you feel like you let guys down. If you care about it, I think that's how you feel."

Gross, who plans on being around the team as much as he can, said he still hasn't seen a replay of the injury.

"I heard it looked nasty," Gross said. "They said I didn't scream too bad, so I improved my street cred a little."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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