On July 25, the bottom of a full-page ad in the sports section of the Charlotte Observer read, "CAROLINA PANTHERS -- SUPER BOWL XLVII CHAMPIONS! Sincerely, Ryan Kalil."
Eleven weeks later, the Panthers have one of the league's worst records, and the man who signed the bottom of that ad is done for the season.
Carolina placed Kalil, their All-Pro center, on injured reserve Wednesday. While the Panthers originally believed the left foot injury he suffered Sunday against the Seahawks was minor, further tests revealed he had a Lisfranc fracture.
"It's unfortunate," coach Ron Rivera said "He was having a terrific year in spite of our situation. Individually, he was doing great. We're just going to hope for the best, and we'll go from there."
Recovery times for a Lisfranc injury, which occurs in the mid-foot, varies from eight to 12 weeks. The injury's becoming infamous this season: Kalil joins Jets receiver Santonio Holmes and Packers running back Cedric Benson as players on IR with a Lisfranc fracture.
Kalil hasn't missed a game since 2008 and had played 286 of 290 offensive plays this season. The Panthers made him the highest-paid center in the league with a six-year, $49 million contract before the 2011 season.
While his loss is another dark cloud hanging over Carolina's disappointing 1-4 start, the Panthers do have a capable backup. Geoff Hangartner, who played center with the Panthers in 2006 and with the Bills in 2009-10, will likely slide over from right guard. If that happens, Garry Williams should get the first shot at right guard.
"(Kalil's) certainly one of the emotional leaders, and it's hard to replace those kind of guys," Rivera said. "But the truth of the matter is, it's time for us as a team to step up anyway, and this is another one of those things that's going to try us. That's why we keep guys as backup players. Now they've got their opportunity."
If the Kalil news came down during a regular week, it may threaten to spiral the Panthers' season further out of control. However, the team has its bye this weekend, which may help things settle down a bit.
After Wednesday's practice, the players headed out for a four-day break, but quarterback Cam Newton claimed he wouldn't be enjoying himself too much.
"(Rivera) used an analogy, are we looking through a window or are we looking through a mirror?" Newton said. "I think the approach that I'm going about this week is looking through a mirror because I think there's a lot of things that I could've done better to make an impact for this football team."
In less than two months, the Panthers have gone from a hot dark horse team to a team in danger of becoming irrelevant. Kalil's ad and Newton's 2011 Rookie of the Year campaign fueled high expectations, but 1-4 doesn't draw much positive attention.
For his part, offensive tackle Jordan Gross, a 10-year veteran and one of the Panthers' captains, is trying to see a silver lining.
"We're definitely not being talked about as a surprise team or a breakout team. Maybe that anonymity is something that'll help us," Gross said.