- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Imagine you're fired by your long-term employer. Out of the blue. No warning whatsoever.
Now imagine two months later the employer calls and asks you to come back. Says he needs you even though he basically said he didn't need you when you were let go.
Do you swallow your pride?
Welcome to Geoff Hangartner's world.
The Carolina Panthers cut the nine-year veteran during training camp in August. He got the news about a year after signing a three-year, $4.85 million deal. He said at the time he was blindsided.
But he wasn't bitter, at least not enough that when the Panthers (5-3) called on Sunday he didn't jump at the opportunity to return.
"Football is a cutthroat business,'' said Hangartner, affectionately known as "Piggy'' in the locker room. "I was disappointed when I was cut, but it's always a reality.
"I've been watching all the games and rooting for the guys. I had played here long enough where it wasn't going to sour my experience with the Panthers.''
On Sunday Hangartner was hanging out at his Austin, Texas home watching the Panthers dismantle the Atlanta Falcons 34-10 -- following the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2005 draft.
He wasn't totally surprised when his phone rang because he watched firsthand as starting right guard Chris Scott (knee) and backup Jeff Byers (foot), two players that made him expendable in the first place, went down with injuries.
Two days later, he was on a plane for Charlotte to take a physical. On Wednesday, he was back on the field as if he'd never left.
“If we had some guy come in today that we were going to count on and none of us knew and didn’t know the offense, there would be a stress level,” left tackle Jordan Gross said. “But when it’s [Hangartner], he’s the smartest football player that I’ve ever played with on the O-line.
"He could teach us the offense probably right now.”
Hangartner is smart. He reportedly scored 47 out of 50 on the Wonderlic Personnel Test given during the NFL combine to measure a player's intelligence.
When released, he was smart enough to know it wasn't because of his salary. With a reasonable cap value of $1.575 million, he knew it had more to do with his play in 2012 and the Panthers moving forward with younger players.
“I would have been happy being retired,” Hangartner said. “There were probably six or eight teams I would have played for and this was No. 1 on my list, so as soon as they called, I was coming back.”
Hangartner won't be the starter when Carolina takes its four-game winning streak to San Francisco (6-2) on Sunday. But he'll be first up if Nate Chandler, a defensive lineman moved to backup tackle during offseason workouts, struggles.
No hard feelings here.