For longtime fans of the Carolina Panthers, the name Mark Fields is a familiar one: Fields, a Pro Bowl linebacker, joined the Panthers in 2002, but would become a rallying point for the team the next season as he sat out the entire season due to Hodgkin’s Disease. He would make a triumphant return in 2004 by making the Pro Bowl for a second time, but his career ended shortly afterwards when his Hogdkin’s Disease returned.
Now, another Mark Fields is getting ready to enter the NFL once again: His son, Mark Fields II.
A National Championship-winning cornerback at Clemson University, Fields is among the NFL hopefuls participating in this weekend’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. Having played his high school football at Hough High in nearby Cornelius, North Carolina and being the son of a Panthers player, Fields has strong ties to the Charlotte area. And should the Panthers come calling during the NFL Draft, the significance would not be lost on him.
“It would mean a lot to me if Carolina gave me that call,” said Fields in a report by Marcel Louis-Jacques of the Charlotte Observer. “My pops was a great player there and it would be an honor just to represent that organization. It would be a great honor.”
While his performance in Clemson’s National Championship Game helped Fields earn an opportunity at the Senior Bowl, the major question surrounding Fields is whether he is suited to play inside or outside cornerback at the professional level. According to Louis-Jacques, one NFL scout graded Fields as an undrafted free agent before Fields’ tape from the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl convinced him to upgrade him to a seventh-rounder.
Fields, for his part, stated that he is comfortable both playing as an inside cornerback covering slot receivers and an outside cornerback.
“My game can adjust to both so wherever they want to play me, I’ll be fine playing that,” said Fields. “I spoke with a lot of teams and just continue to rise. I’ve really just been doing what I need to do, showing them my versatility as well as playing special teams. I’ve talked with a lot of teams and they like what I bring to the table, so I’ve just got to continue to do what I do.”
While the Panthers have more outstanding needs than at cornerback given how James Bradberry and Donte Jackson have come to compliment each other, there is a case to be made for bolstering their cornerback depth and upgrading their inside cornerbacks. Nickel cornerback Captain Munnerlyn is set to turn 31 in April, and could be a casualty of the Panthers’ pivot towards a younger defense. Corn Elder could be in line to inherit Munnerlyn’s role should that happen, but he will likely be competing for a spot on the roster come the preseason.