CHARLOTTE — Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly said one of the things that makes veteran linebacker Jon Beason so effective is Beason’s ability to communicate on the field.
Beason was talking plenty Monday night, directing traffic as he and 15 teammates served multi-course dinner at a celebrity waiter charity event at the Palm that benefited Beason’s education-focused MLB Foundation.
“Anytime you put your name on something, you put everything into it,” Beason said before he began serving. “For me being vocal on the field, I know helps our defense go out and everyone’s on the same page. So I want to make sure everyone’s on the same page here tonight.”
The Panthers’ starting linebacker corps was represented, as well as its top reserve. Joining Beason and Kuechly were veteran Thomas Davis and Chase Blackburn, the former New York Giants linebacker who signed with Carolina as a free agent this offseason.
The group figures to benefit from the arrival of the team’s top draft picks – defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short, who will try to occupy blockers up front to allow the linebackers to roam more freely.
“That’s what they’re there for – to protect us, be a bodyguard a little bit, allow us to run free and make plays,” Beason said. “We’re excited about it. We know they’re going to make our job easier so we should play at a high level. We have a high standard for how we should perform as a group, in terms of the linebackers.”
Lotulelei and Short will join an interior rotation that includes Dwan Edwards, who re-signed with the Panthers after finishing with a career-high six sacks in 2012. Ron Edwards, the other starter at defensive tackle last season, was released during the offseason.
“Dwan played great. Ron was good. We’ve got guys up front,” Kuechly said. “You add more guys, it just makes it that much better.”
Kuechly led the league with 164 tackles and won The Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year award last season when Beason was hurt. Kuechly began the season on the outside and moved to the middle in Week 5 after Beason went down with season-ending knee and shoulder injuries.
Beason, who had three surgeries within a 17-month span, said last month he plans to return better than before injuries cost him all but five games the past two seasons. He also has conceded the middle to Kuechly, who became the first rookie to lead the league in tackles since San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis in 2007.
Kuechly, who returned to Boston College during the offseason to resume work on his degree, said he has areas where he can improve in his second season.
“My pass coverage could use some work. And the more you know about the defense, the more you can learn the defense, the better you can be,” he said. “Last year I had to learn everything from scratch. Now I have an idea of what’s going on. … I can concentrate on little areas versus having to look at everything as a whole.”
Meanwhile, Beason is itching to get back on the field after two injury-shortened seasons.
Beason is not expected to participate in the team’s minicamp next month. But he said going through Monday’s walkthrough during the first day of phase 3 of organized team activities fired him up.
“For me, it can’t get here any faster. Obviously, I want to take advantage of the time that I have to get stronger and to heal up even more,” Beason said. “But I’m just so anxious to get back to doing what I love. I love to play the game of football. There’s nothing else I’d rather do.”