Panthers’ DeHaven steps down as coordinator to battle cancer

FILE - Carolina Panthers special teams coach Bruce DeHaven, right, talks with players during NFL football minicamp in Charlotte, N.C. DeHaven has decided to step down from his position and move into an advisory role with the team while continuing his battle with prostate cancer. The team announced Sunday, Aug. 14, 2016, that Thomas McGaughey has been promoted to special teams coordinator and Chase Blackburn to special teams assistant. DeHaven will return to Buffalo, N.Y., to receive cancer treatments with the hopes of returning to the team as an adviser in mid-September. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton, File)

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — Carolina Panthers special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven has decided to step down from his position and move into an advisory role with the team while continuing his battle with prostate cancer.

The team announced Sunday that Thomas McGaughey has been promoted to special teams coordinator and Chase Blackburn to special teams assistant.

DeHaven will return to Buffalo, New York, to receive cancer treatments with the hopes of returning to the team as an adviser in mid-September.

The 67-year-old DeHaven was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2015 before his 29th season as an NFL assistant coach. He previously took a leave of absence in May of 2015, but returned for Carolina’s NFC championship season.

Coach Ron Rivera said DeHaven approached him about the decision to leave as coordinator after Thursday night’s preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens.

“He felt now was an opportunity to transition as far as our special teams were concerned so it would be seamless,” Rivera said. “He did not want to be a distraction. He wanted to go quietly with the intention of coming back in the fall.”

Under DeHaven, Panthers kicker Graham Gano scored a franchise-record 146 points. Gano converted 30 field goals, including two game-winners, and was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Month in November.

Returner Ted Ginn Jr. ranked second in the NFC and fifth in the NFL averaging 10.3 yards per punt return.

Rivera said DeHaven epitomizes the team’s motto of “Keep Pounding,” which came about when former linebackers coach Sam Mills was battling cancer.

Panthers long snapper J.J. Jansen said Sunday was a tough day for all who have a connection to Carolina’s special teams.

“He has been rock solid,” Jansen said. “He has been a good man and great mentor to all of us. The way he has handled and conducted himself (since learning about the cancer), you almost forget about it. You wouldn’t have noticed a difference in the way he conducted himself.”

Panthers safety Colin Jones said he was surprised to learn DeHaven was leaving the team for treatments.

“You never heard Bruce complain at all,” Jones said.

DeHaven did not attend practice Sunday.

McGaughey will assume a full special teams coordinator role immediately, according to Rivera. He was hired as Carolina’s special teams assistant in February. He has 10 years of NFL coaching experience.

McGaughey spent time with the San Francisco 49ers as special teams coordinator prior to coming to Carolina. The 49ers ranked second in the league with four blocked field goals and were eighth in punt coverage. He previously coached with the Chiefs, Broncos and Giants as an assistant.

“He has jumped right in and is very capable,” Jones said.

Blackburn joined the staff as an intern earlier this year.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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