Hyped-up fan taunts Bucs on mike
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers are reviewing their entertainment procedures after a fan taunted the Buccaneers when he was given a microphone late in the game Sunday.
The Panthers led 20-14 with 10:12 to play when, during a timeout, a member of the Carolina staff sought out the fan of the game. Selected was a man in the Ericsson Stadium stands dressed as a cat who identified himself as the "Carolina Prowler."
The fan isn't usually handed the microphone, but the Prowler was given it as he was being broadcast live on the stadium scoreboard. He didn't hesitate to address the Bucs and defensive tackle Simeon Rice's guarantee that they would beat Carolina.
The crowd went wild, the Panthers looked on in stunned belief, and Rice and Sapp pointed at the scoreboard.
Rice then registered two sacks, the momentum swung toward Tampa Bay and the Bucs quickly took a 24-20 lead. Carolina rallied for the 27-24 victory in the closing minutes.
"That guy, we need to seek him out and revoke his season ticket privileges," Carolina center Jeff Mitchell said. "You've got to find that guy and get him out of here. What are you doing? It's third-and-long and you're calling out the defense?
"It's usually (receiver) Steve Smith we're trying to keep quiet. He's talking trash to the D-line. Now we've got somebody in the stands doing it."
Panthers coach John Fox said after the game he was not aware of the Carolina Prowler, who has his own Web site that had received close to 100,000 hits by Monday afternoon.
Fox's consciousness of fan input had been raised by Monday.
"Obviously we want our fans to be very enthusiastic," Fox said. "But I'm not sure we want to incite the opponent, either. I'm sure that will be addressed and we'll deal with that later on."
Panthers spokesman Charlie Dayton said the team would review its fan of the game policy this week.
It's not surprising Fox and the Panthers were less than pleased with the Prowler taunting Tampa Bay's defense. In just under two years, Fox has implemented a code of conduct he expects his team to follow, and acting like professionals is a large part of it.
Under his guidelines, he discourages the Panthers from showboating, trash-talking and being baited into exchanging verbal volleys with the opponent.
The Panthers stuck to that policy last week as the Bucs challenged them through the media.
"That is something that I try to talk to our players about a lot, so that they can remain focused on what they've got to do between the lines and try to eliminate that as much as possible," Fox said. "I can't put muzzles on our players, but I stress to them how I expect them to act and they've done a good job of that."
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press
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