SPARTANBURG, S.C — . Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short will be linked for the entirety of their Carolina careers.
The Panthers took Lotulelei with the 14th overall pick in this years draft to fill the open starting defensive tackle spot and then reinforced their depth by taking Short, a tackle from Purdue, in the second round.
Theyve gone through rookie camps, organized team activities and rookie symposiums together. At Wofford, the two men weigh in at a combined 625 pounds and share a dorm room.
Does it make it easier to go through your first training camp with your running partner by your side?
No, Short said quickly with a laugh. Its a lot of expectations: Hes first round, Im second round. Theres a lot of big things that they expect from us, and we set high expectations for ourselves to come help these guys on the defensive line, and the team in general, to get to the playoffs and even the Super Bowl.
The two rookies will look to bolster a defense that ranked ninth in the NFL with 39 sacks, from which all but one came via the defensive line. But both players have work to do in Spartanburg if they want to be an immediate, effective contributor to the line.
Short said hes been working closing with defensive line coach Eric Washington on his work ethic, which was criticized by scouts before the draft, as well as technique.
General manager Dave Gettleman said he considered Lotulelei to be the best defensive tackle in the draft, and the team wasted little time selecting him. But head coach Ron Rivera said in April that his first-round pick had to work on his pass rushing abilities.
Lotulelei is looking forward to practicing in full equipment.
I think itll be a lot better for me seeing as Im not real good with the finesse and all that stuff, Lotulelei said. I think when the pads come on Ill have more time to practice and improve my game and be able to actually get some good looks for myself.
Lotulelei said the biggest thing hes learned since coming to the league is watching how the veterans play on the field and carry themselves off it.
Short has noticed that, as well. He said he and Lotulelei would watch 10-year defensive tackle Dwan Edwards during OTAs and marvel and how efficient and precise he was.
He leads by example, Short said. Standing in the background watching, he does everything to the T. Dwan Edwards doesnt do anything wrong. (I'm) just trying to follow those footsteps. We mess up in practice and they get on us and tell us what we need to do. Just listening to those guys, we can learn a lot from them.
Coming off the first double-digit sack season of his career, defensive end Greg Hardy sees a lot of promise in the duo. And much like theyre watching him and the rest of the veterans on the defensive line, hes watching them.
Mostly you got to stay out of the way and let the coaches do their job, and be there for them when they need your help and just basically watch, Hardy said. Theyre grown men, were all grown men. You got to be there for each other when they need it and get out the way when we need to.