Chris Gamble and the Panthers have had a rough season. (AP Photo)
CHARLOTTE – Carolina Panthers star cornerback Chris Gamble grew frustrated and walked out of Bank of America Stadium last Wednesday following team meetings, sources close to the organization said.
Gamble was in the building last Wednesday hours before practice was to start, but got upset over critique of his performance during a team meeting and decided to skip practice. Sources said issues off the field also led to that abrupt decision. Coach John Fox attributed Gamble's absence from practice to “personal reasons.”
According to teammate Everette Brown, Gamble got frustrated and overreacted.
“It was one of those things where he made an out-of-mind decision, I call it that,” Brown told the Associated Press on Wednesday. “He came back the next day and apologized and that’s been the end of it since. He’s been out working every day and getting better and getting ready for the Seattle Seahawks.”
During the interview during the open locker room session, Brown said Gamble got “frustrated and just overreacted,” but apologized to the team afterward.
“It happens in life,” Brown told AP. “One thing for sure about Gam(ble) is I know he'll learn from it. He'll bounce back and he'll continue to play well and produce for us.”
Panthers general manager Marty Hurney refused to discuss details of the situation, saying only, "We said he missed practice for personal reasons."
When asked if Gamble was benched Sunday against Cleveland because he missed practice, Hurney said, "That was a coaching decision."
Captain Munnerlyn replaced Gamble in the starting lineup against Cleveland and returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown. Gamble played exclusively as a nickel back.
Gamble has not addressed the media since the incident and left the locker room after Sunday’s 24-23 loss before reporters were allowed in.
Fox said Monday the decision to bench Gamble was “performance-based.”
“He’s struggled a bit,” Fox said.
Gamble, who signed a six-year, $53 million contract extension in 2008, hasn’t intercepted a pass in 14 straight games and hasn’t played well lately -- at least not as well as he has in recent years when he recorded 24 interceptions in his first six seasons. In the game prior to walking out of practice, Gamble gave up a long touchdown pass to Baltimore’s T.J. Houshmandzadeh on the second play of the game.
“It’s easy to come in and come to work and be chipper everyday when you’re winning,” Brown said. “But when things aren’t going your way, sometimes those things happen where you act out of character. But being the team that we are and having the character that we have on the team, we all hold each other accountable. (Gamble) was disciplined for his actions and that was the end of it.
“It’s not anything we hold a grudge against a guy or say, ‘Aw man, he’s a quitter. He backed out on the team.’ He was back at practice the next day working hard. So you’ve got to commend him for that and for the team holding together.”
Brown said Gamble apologized and is back in good graces with the team. Gamble practiced Wednesday on a limited basis due to a hamstring injury, but it's unclear who'll start this week. Munnerlyn missed practice with sore shoulder but said he will be ready for Sunday.
When asked if it was a disagreement between him and coach John Fox, Brown added, “To be honest, I really don't know. I didn't know that he missed practice until about halfway through practice when I said, 'Where's Gam?' Obviously, I approached him just to make sure he was OK mentally because you never know what's going on in somebody's life outside of football. Once he said he was good, that was pretty much the end of it there.”
Munnerlyn said he didn’t know any details surrounding the situation.
“When I got out there on Friday for practice they just told me to go with the first team,” Munnerlyn said.