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Fields delays contract signing until checkup

(March 9, 2005) -- Carolina Panthers linebacker Mark Fields is delaying signing a new three-year contract with the Panthers until after he passes his annual May checkup following his treatment of Hodgkin's disease.

Fields missed all of the 2003 season while battling the cancer, but returned last year in top form and made it to the Pro Bowl. He became an unrestricted free agent after the season, but wants to wait until he is sure he is able to fulfill a multiyear contract before he commits to it.

"This is what makes Mark such a special guy, he is a big part of the Panthers and he wants to be able to say to the team 'I am here and I am with you for a multiyear agreement,'" agent Jim Steiner said.

"This is all about Mark and him wanting to do the right thing. This is about planning for the club and he wants to be able fulfill his commitments."

Steiner would not answer any questions about Fields' health, but indicated in an e-mail statement that Fields was simply due an annual checkup in early May.

Steiner said he has been in negotiations with Carolina general manager Marty Hurney on a new three-year deal for Fields.

"By the first week in May, Mark anticipates completing all of his regularly scheduled tests and annual follow-up care related to his previous health condition," Steiner said. "He looks forward to signing a contract with the Panthers at that time and bringing a championship to the city of Charlotte."

Hurney did not immediately return a call for comment, but he and coach John Fox have insisted they want Fields back next season.

As Fields cleaned out his locker on the final day of the season, he said he only wanted to play for the Panthers and joked that he would re-sign for $2.

He returned from his one-year absence last season and played in all but three games, which he missed with a back injury. He had 60 tackles, four sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one interception.

He was a first alternate to the Pro Bowl, then advanced to play in it for the second time in his career as an injury substitute.

Fields was honored at the 27th Annual Ed Block Courage Awards. One player from every team is chosen by his teammates for courage and sportsmanship.

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