As the best cornerback available last February, Doug Evans was among the most coveted free agents on the market before he signed a five-year, $22 million contract with the Panthers. And during Carolina's two weeks of preparation for its game against high-powered Green Bay on Sunday, Evans had added value: Having played the past five years with the Packers, he was able to pass along everything he could remember about his former team.
"It's not about loyalty in the NFL, it's about winning" said Evans, who dislocated his left thumb on Carolina's second defensive series and played the rest of the game with a cast on his hand. "If you can get an advantage by spying or giving away secrets about your old team, then you do that. Everything I told the guys to look out for during the week happened on the field."
The results, however, were mixed. The Panthers intercepted Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre three times, but he also threw for 388 yards and five touchdowns in a 37-30 Packers win.
Most of Evans's information related to Green Bay's offensive tendencies. On their first play from scrimmage, the Packers sent three wideouts to the right and one to the left. Tipped by Evans earlier in the week, Panthers inside linebacker Jeff Brady knew to look for a pass in the middle of the field. Brady intercepted Favre's pass between the hash marks and returned the ball 16 yards, to the Green Bay 11. Three plays later Carolina scored to go up 10-0. Evans also pointed out that when the Packers line up with their running backs split, they usually pass without a play-action fake. So whenever Green Bay went to that formation, the Carolina defensive backs cheated a couple of extra steps downfield.
Evans stopped short of passing along audible terminology that Green Bay had used when he was a Packer, fearing they would have changed signals in an attempt to cross him up. He knew that "Black Thunder" was the audible for a slant route last year, "but I just bet that this week Black Thunder means a go route," he said last Thursday. As it turned out, Evans says that Black Thunder was still a slant route on Sunday, but because the Packers change their indicator signal for audibles every week, he couldn't determine when the play was on.
Evans also clued in teammates on the skills of the Packers' wideouts, particularly those of Robert Brooks and Antonio Freeman. On Sunday, however, it was Derrick Mayes who did most of the damage, catching five balls for 87 yards and three scores.
"Maybe," Evans said afterward as he packed his equipment in a Packers' commemorative backpack from Super Bowl XXXII, "spying is overrated."