Gross says Rivera 'wants me back for sure'

Carolina Panthers tackle Jordan Gross says the decision to extend the contract of head coach Ron Rivera through the 2017 season was a "smart move."

Now we'll have to wait and see if the Panthers are smart enough to re-sign Gross, who plans to retire if he doesn't return to the only team he's been with since entering the NFL in 2003.

The left tackle told ESPN.com on Thursday that Rivera "wants me back for sure." But Gross wouldn't speculate on whether he wants to come back for a 12th season until he's heard from general manager Dave Gettleman, who ultimately makes those decisions.

He expects that to happen soon after he gets over the jetlag from a 24-hour travel nightmare back from the Pro Bowl in Hawaii.

"So I don't sleep in until 9:30 [a.m.]," said Gross, whose travel was impacted by the winter storm that hit the East coast. "Makes me feel like a total bum."

Gross is no bum on the field. You get the feeling a new deal for him will be as much of a "no-brainer" as it was to extend the four-year deal Rivera signed in 2011. Both played a key role in the Panthers rallying from a 1-3 start to 12-4 and the NFC South championship.

"I expected he would get something," Gross said of Rivera. "Definitely deserving of it. I'm very happy for him. He worked his tail off to get things to where we were last year.

"It's a very, very smart move to keep him around."

Gross was a part of the mess at Carolina in 2010 when coach John Fox, preparing the Denver Broncos for the Super Bowl, was allowed to go through the final year of his deal as a lame duck coach.

It didn't turn out well as the Panthers went 2-14.

"That was a hard, hard year," Gross said. "By the end of the year there were rumors the staff was going to be gone. It was tough. The atmosphere late in that year, you knew you weren't going to make the playoffs, you knew [changes were coming], the lockout was coming . . .

"It definitely was the end of one chapter, but it was the beginning of another that has turned out pretty bright."