Remembering Kris Jenkins' days in Carolina

Former Panthers and Jets defensive tackle Kris Jenkins just announced his retirement on his Facebook page.

JenkinsJenkins“Wanted to let you all know that I have loved the support and respect that you all have given me throughout my career,’’ Jenkins wrote. “But it is time for the torch to be passed to the younger players. I am going to hang up the cleats! The mind is always willing to play but my body deserves the rest. Thank you for the opportunities to play Carolina and New York.’’

Jenkins is 31 and played seven seasons with the Panthers and the last three with the Jets. I had the chance to cover Jenkins throughout his time with the Panthers when I was the beat writer for The Charlotte Observer and can honestly say he might be the most unique player I ever covered.

For a time, he also was one of the best players I covered. Jenkins had a stretch as the dominant defensive tackle in the league, but injuries and the fact he wasn’t happy in Carolina got in the way and might have prevented what could have been a Hall of Fame career. Jenkins didn’t like the locker-room atmosphere in Carolina and felt he was an outcast because he was outspoken and didn’t like to play by what he viewed as corporate rules.

Jenkins could be loud and immature at times and he could be downright mean, especially to reporters named “Stan’’, who tried to interview him moments after he’d backed a golf cart over the leg of a team employee.

But there was another side to Jenkins that few got to see. He wasn’t particularly liked by the Carolina media or fans. My opinion of Jenkins began to go in another direction early in his career when his agent approached me about doing a training camp diary.

My first reaction was that it was a dangerous proposition because my early impressions of Jenkins were that he wasn’t all that reliable. I told the agent that, if we were going to do the diary, I would need to be absolutely certain Jenkins showed up and was ready to talk on the days we designated. He gave me his word and Jenkins came through.

He showed up every time he was supposed to, sometimes with little notes to remind him what he wanted to talk about. More often than not, Jenkins just talked off the top of his head.

He talked about football, but he could talk in-depth about a lot of other things and he frequently did. I remember coach John Fox walking by one day and seeing Jenkins talking into my tape recorder.

Later that day, Fox saw me in the cafeteria and said, “Who thinks it’s a good idea to let Jenks to a diary?’’

I got Fox’s point of view. He was a coach who liked to keep his players quiet and free of controversy. Jenkins didn’t fit that profile, but he did provide some fresh air in a locker room that often was stale.

Whether coaches, the front office or fans liked it or not, Jenkins always said whatever was on his mind. There are a lot of other things beside football in that mind, and I hope Jenkins gets to fully enjoy them now.