CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Vikings coach Mike Zimmer isn’t too proud to say he made a mistake when he cut safety Kurt Coleman.
“It’s nice to hear that,” said Coleman, now the Panthers starting safety.
Coleman said he doesn’t have any hard feelings toward Zimmer or the Vikings, who made him among their final round of cuts in 2014. Coleman lives by the notion that everything happens for a reason and things have worked out just fine for him in Carolina.
Maybe even more than fine.
Coleman was a major cog on a team that went 17-2 last season and won the NFC championship before losing to the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
On Sunday Coleman and the Panthers will host Zimmer’s Vikings.
“Hey, if I had done well enough in Minnesota I wouldn’t have wound up” in Carolina, Coleman said.
The 26-year-old Coleman had a career season in 2015 and the Panthers rewarded him with a three-year, $17 million contract extension this offseason. He’s considered the leader of a secondary that is made up mainly of first- and second-year players.
While he holds no grudges, Coleman hasn’t forgotten what it felt like to be unwanted.
After what he felt was a strong performance in training camp Coleman was informed by Zimmer he didn’t make the 53-man roster. Coleman, who had started 29 games in his first four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, was simply stunned.
The following day Coleman and his wife attended church services in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. That’s where they heard a sermon that brought both of them to tears.
Coleman remembers being walking out of the church knowing that he would be just fine and feeling like God had a plan for him.
That plan unfolded quickly.
Less than an hour after leaving the church, Coleman received a phone call from his agent telling him the Kansas City Chiefs wanted him.
Coleman agreed to the contract and packed up his belongings into a car and made the six-hour trek to Kansas City.
There, Coleman made the Chiefs roster and played in 15 games, starting three. He had a modest 37 tackles and three interceptions, but had shown enough to attract the attention of Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, who was Coleman’s first defensive coordinator in Philadelphia.
The Panthers were in need of a safety, and McDermott thought Coleman would be a great fit because of his familiarity with his system.
Carolina brought Coleman in in 2015 on a cheap prove-it two-year contract. The decision paid huge dividends for both sides.
Coleman had a career-high 90 tackles and seven interceptions last season for the Panthers.
Minnesota’s loss has been Carolina’s gain.
“Yeah, you know that’s probably one of the mistakes that we made, that I made,” Zimmer said. “It was my first year here. He was hurt for a while and it never really jumped out at you. But obviously he had an unbelievable year. He’s a great kid. He worked real hard when he was here. You know, we probably made a mistake but I’m glad he’s doing well.”
Coleman has put the disappointment of being cut in his past.
And he insists that revenge on Sunday against Zimmer and the Vikings is the last thing on his mind.
“I think he felt like he made the best decision for the team at that time,” Coleman said. “There was no animosity, there are no hard feelings. I was a business decision and when you are around this league long enough you understand that. You can’t take things personally.”