Ex-Panthers LB Morgan to join Saints

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- At first, Dan Morgan enjoyed retirement. Then his achy body felt better, and he started running longer distances.

The former Pro Bowl linebacker began thinking about a comeback with the New Orleans Saints -- even with his history of five concussions and numerous other injuries.

On Friday, the 30-year-old Morgan said he'll rejoin the Saints for offseason workouts next month. He'll have the same incentive-laden, one-year deal he signed last spring, following his release from the Carolina Panthers.

"I know what everybody thinks on the outside. They think I'm crazy for coming back," Morgan told The Associated Press by phone from his home in Charlotte. "You read the things that people say. Everybody's got their opinions and they're entitled to that. But my family is behind me, my friends are behind me. That's really all that matters.

"I know where I stand with my health. I feel good concussion-wise. I feel good Achilles'-wise. I'm ready to come back and play and I'm not worried about it at all."

A Saints spokesman confirmed Morgan filed the necessary paperwork to return to the team and is on the roster.

"I've been working tremendously hard," Morgan said. "I've been working out this whole time. I got into some distance running. I was really heavy into that for a while. I was up to a 13-mile run. When I decided to come back, I was running 3 to 5 miles every day. I feel great."

Carolina's first-round pick in 2001, Morgan was dominant when he played. The Panthers credited him with 25 tackles in their Super Bowl loss to New England in January 2004. He made the Pro Bowl the following season.

But he appeared in only 59 of 112 games in seven seasons with the Panthers. Injuries ranged from a broken leg to a pulled hamstring to a chronically sore shoulder. There were also the frightening concussions, including two in 2006 that forced him to miss the final 15 games.

Wearing a special mouthpiece and a helmet with extra padding, Morgan regained the starting job at middle linebacker in 2007 only to suffer a partial tear in his right Achilles' tendon in Week 3, ending his season.

With Jon Beason cementing his spot at middle linebacker, the Panthers released Morgan over a year ago. So he signed with NFC South rival New Orleans. But with a wife in Charlotte ready to have their third child and Morgan still in pain, he decided to retire last May.

"At the time, I just felt like it was best for me to just walk away," Morgan said.

Morgan said the long-term effects from concussions aren't a concern. He looks forward to fighting for playing time with the Saints, and he plans to rent a home in the New Orleans area for his family.

"From talking to Mickey Loomis, the general manager, I feel like they're really excited to have me back," Morgan said. "I sense that they know I had the itch to come back. They welcomed me back and I'm grateful they're giving me another opportunity."