Local News

Panthers Coach, Player Face Battle Off Playing Field

Posted January 30, 2004

— At the Super Bowl, every Carolina Panthers media session centers on two men battling life-threatening diseases. One is a former player turned coach, the other led the team in tackles last year.

Linebacker coach Sam Mills is battling cancer. He arrived in Houston Thursday to join his team after undergoing chemotherapy earlier in the week in Charlotte.

"You've got to stay positive," Mills said. "There is going to be some times when you're feeling bad, but you just have to look in the mirror and say, 'Hey God, I know you're with me' and keep on working."

Mark Fields has Hodgkin's disease.

"You have a player that's a linebacker and all of a sudden a position coach gets hit -- I mean, that's like one in a million," Fields said.

Both men said watching the Panthers battle their way to the Super Bowl has been therapeutic. For Mills and Fields, joining their team at the Super Bowl has been therapeutic, too.

"Eighteen years of trying to get to this weekend -- to finally do it and see these young guys go out, making the necessary plays to finally get it done, " Mills said.

"When you're on the sidelines, all you can do is find a way to inspire the team anyway you can. That's what I've been able to do so far," Fields said.

Fields expects to take part in training camp next year.

For Mills, who has cancer of the intestines, the prognosis is more guarded.

"You have your good and your bad days. I'm just glad I'm having days," he said.

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