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Panthers RBs lobby for Skipper's return, but team moves on

As the Carolina Panthers put the finishing touches on Ron Rivera's first coaching staff, popular running backs coach Jim Skipper was told Sunday that he won't be back with the team, according to *The Charlotte Observer*.

Panthers running backs asked the team to retain Skipper, who worked under now-departed John Fox since 2002. But the coach called Sunday's interview with Rivera and newly hired offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski "a courtesy thing."

"It's disappointing, but I knew it when I went in for the interview," Skipper told the newspaper. "The only reason they did it was because the players spoke up for me. It's a good group of guys, and I appreciate them trying."

DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, along with running backs Mike Goodson and Tyrell Sutton, lobbied hard for Skipper's return. Free-agent-to-be Williams said it would impact his decision to stay with the team.

"They both (Rivera and Chudzinski) told me they knew the players liked me, and that meant something. But then they kept talking about going through the process, and I knew I wasn't getting the job," Skipper said, adding that they spent most of the meeting "picking my brain" about personnel.

Skipper guided a Panthers rushing attack that ranked 13th in the NFL in 2010 with 115.4 yards per game, even as the young team struggled mightily on offense. In 2009, the Panthers ranked third in the league with 156.1 rushing yards per game, as backs Williams (1,117) and Stewart (1,133) both surpassed 1,000 yards. Carolina also ranked third in 2008 (152.3 rushing yards per game) and 14th in 2007 (114.0 yards per game).

Skipper said Fox, now the Broncos' coach, offered him an undetermined coaching role in Denver. But the Broncos asked Fox to keep running backs coach Eric Studesville, and Skipper said "Foxy's hands were kind of tied." He told Fox he'd pass up the offer.

"I'd have stuck around and coached a few more," Skipper told The Observer. "I appreciate John trying, but he was creating a spot for me. I'm either retiring or just waiting to see what happens next year at this stage."

The Panthersannounced a staff addition Monday, naming Eric Washington their defensive line coach. The 41-year-old joins the Panthers after serving in the same role for the Chicago Bears this season.

Washington becomes the fourth member of Carolina's defensive staff, joining coordinator Sean McDermott, secondary coach Ron Meeks and defensive quality control and assistant defensive line coach Sam Mills III.

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