Coaches, staff lose more than 500 lbs.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There's much less to see when you look at the Carolina Panthers' sideline these days.
More than 500 pounds less.
In their own competitive, high-stakes version of "The Biggest Loser," coach John Fox, his assistants and the football operations staff have combined to shed over a quarter-ton of weight since the end of last season.
"I don't quite feel like an old German shepherd anymore," said offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson, who dropped 71 pounds, the most in the eight-week competition. "I think it's helped me dramatically. It just didn't make me better looking."
The program was the brainchild of trainer Ryan Vermillion, who became alarmed late last season at the staff's bulging waistlines.
"I felt they needed it for themselves and for their own health," Vermillion said. "I didn't want them to have cardiovascular problems. I didn't want them to have physical problems."
It didn't take Vermillion long to figure out the best way to accomplish it would be to feed what drove most of them to their jobs -- competition.
"One thing about coaches, make it a competition and put a little money on it, it ain't bad," said Fox, who has dropped about 25 pounds.
Vermillion recruited 26 men that included Fox, general manager Marty Hurney, assistant coaches and football office staff. They were split into "big guys" and "small guys" and then paired randomly into two-man teams.
They were told to eat better and exercise. Fox began walking regularly, while others started running again. Davidson joked that he found where the weight room was and learned how to eat healthy for the first time.
The results exceeded Vermillion's own optimistic goals.
Davidson has gained some of his weight back but is down to 290 pounds. Offensive line coach Dave Magazu dropped 62 pounds and won the competition for the best percentage loss.
Salary cap director Rob Rogers dropped more than 50 pounds and plans to run a marathon next year.
Davidson and director of team operations Brandon Beane won the team competition by less than a pound over Rogers and assistant trainer Mark Shermansky.
Vermillion said nobody gained weight.
"Most of us are competitive guys, so when you do make it competitive I think you end up being more in than if I tried to do it on my own," said Davidson, a former offensive lineman whose weight ballooned after his playing career ended. "It's peer pressure, it's other guys helping you. It's leaning on the other guy, much like you have to do on Sundays."
The weight loss has drawn the attention of the players, too, including many linemen who are often trying to keep weight off.
"Coach Fox is walking around talking that he's under 200 [pounds] and all that," defensive tackle Damione Lewis said, smiling. "We'll see once the season starts."
That's when the long, grueling, stress-filled schedule coaches maintain will put the Carolina's biggest losers to the test. They'll have to find time to exercise and eat healthy.
"Those guys put in an awful lot of time here at the facility breaking down tape during the week," Vermillion said. "Sometimes their night goes until 11, 12 or 1 o'clock in the morning. So they do snack late in the evenings.
"They've got to change their snacking habits. We're also going to try to have healthier [food] choices for the coaches during the season," he said.
Vermillion stressed that keeping the weight off will help them maintain energy during the grind of the NFL season.
"It was time for us to get a little more fit," Fox said. "Ryan wanted to keep us around a little longer. He got us motivated."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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