None of the Panthers study more tape than Mills, who has been known to take video home and make game-plan suggestions to the coaches. After so many years he's just happy to still be playing. Following the 1994 season the Saints didn't immediately make him a contract offer. Polian, meanwhile, wooed Mills, having followed his career since 1983 when, as personnel director of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League, Polian had passed on the chance to sign the sawed-off linebacker. "You tend to follow your mistakes," says Polian. The Saints matched the Panthers' offer, but Mills had already decided it was time to move on.
Unable to wrest from the Steelers the kind of money he felt he was worth, Greene made a similar decision last spring. Carolina proved to be a nice fit for Greene, who had already played two seasons under Capers, the Steelers' defensive coordinator from 1992 to '94.
In addition to leading the Panthers in sacks, Greene has served as a kind of "amen corner" for Capers during pregame speeches. Capers is a man who keeps his emotions in check; Greene provides spice to Capers's orations, shouting, "Physical!" and "Let's get physical!" Capers says he rather enjoys it; Greene says he can't help himself. "Oh, man," he says. "As a linebacker, because we're the hunter, seeker, killer, destroyer-type guys, I've got to be frothing, slobbering, ready to drill people. When Coach gets up there and starts talking, I can't just be quiet."
Is it becoming clearer why this guy might take some getting used to? By now his teammates have grown accustomed to his manner. Lathon has even developed his own method of keeping Greene's emotions in check. After sacking Dilfer on Sunday, Greene sprang to his feet, preparing to dance. He was instead leveled by Lathon, who appeared to make little effort to avoid the collision.
On his way out of the dressing room after the game, Lathon encountered Greene and his father, Thurman. "Did you see the lick I put on him?" Lathon said to Thurman. There was glee in his voice.
"That's two weeks in a row you've almost knocked me out," said Greene. "You're going to stunt my career."
All three men laughed. Then Kevin said, "Hey, what're you doing right now? You want to come out with us?"