Morrison brings fresh air to Panthers

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- The person that’s stood out to me most as I’ve spent the last 30 or so hours with the Carolina Panthers isn’t any player or coach.

It’s actually been Danny Morrison, who is beginning his first full season as the team’s president. Morrison, who once was the athletic director at Wofford College, has been pretty much a non-stop force on that same campus since I’ve been here. I’ve seen him out on the practice field and chatted with him repeatedly. He’s constantly chatting with everyone from media to team employees to fans.

As we speak, the Panthers are showing the movie “Radio’’ out on the hill overlooking the field where they just finished practicing. The two men who the movie was based on are in attendance and were mingling with fans during practice. This is a Morrison production and something new for the Panthers.

By no means am I suggesting the Panthers weren’t a fan-friendly organization before. They’ve always been good in that area. But they’re doing that more than ever and you can trace the new energy straight to Morrison.

He’s the guy who was thrown into a tough spot when owner Jerry Richardson made the sudden and stunning decision to fire his two sons, Mark and Jon, just about a year ago. I know that wasn’t a decision that came lightly for a father, but there was major conflict between the Richardson brothers that had a trickle-down impact on the rest of the organization. The father recognized that and, after pulling the plug, turned to a guy who had spent his adult life working in college athletics to take over an NFL team.

The Richardson brothers weren’t bad guys. I knew them both fairly well. Mark, who handled the business side, wasn’t exactly a social butterfly, but he was always fair and cordial to me. Jon, who handled the stadium operations, was more of a man of the people. We worked out at the same gym in Charlotte and it wasn’t unusual for him to appear on the basketball court and ask if I wanted to play a game of HORSE. For the record, the games were always close.

But the Richardson brothers weren’t real close and that created a tense atmosphere within the walls of Bank of America Stadium. Although they remain part of the ownership group, they’re otherwise out of the picture and out of team operations.

When there’s conflict, change can be good and things are definitely changing with Morrison.