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Veteran CB Cason fits right in

Posted Jun 9, 2014

CHARLOTTE – As another organized team activity comes to a close, cornerback Antoine Cason walks off the field with a smile on his face.

He's also putting smiles on his coaches' faces, day after day.

"Things are going well," Cason said. "There's a really good atmosphere out here. All the guys are really working together and having fun with it.

"For me personally, I'm going to continue to listen to the details and be urgent about things, continuing to get better at my technique every day. That's important to me so I can help the team."

That's the same upbeat approach Cason tried to maintain last season, though doing so wasn't easy. A first-round draft pick from the University of Arizona in 2008, Cason appeared to be fully established as a starting cornerback when he became an unrestricted free agent in 2013 following five seasons with the San Diego Chargers.

Last offseason, he signed with the Arizona Cardinals with the hopes of playing alongside Patrick Peterson in the secondary. But the Cardinals also signed free agent Jerraud Powers, and it was Powers rather than Cason who landed the starting job.

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"It was a learning experience for me, definitely a different situation than I had ever been in in this league or anywhere for that matter," Cason said. "But I love the game, and I'm going to come out here every day and enjoy this, appreciate this, and continue to get better.

"I'm going to continue to work at all the things that I need to do to be a great player."

Cason still contributed in his reserve role, picking off a pair of passes and recovering a fumble against the Tennessee Titans despite not starting. After not starting a game all season, he sought a new home this offseason.

Now Cason is in Carolina, with some familiar faces and with hopes of doing some familiar things. In 2010, his first year as a full-time starter, Cason helped a San Diego defense that featured Ron Rivera as defensive coordinator and Steve Wilks as secondary coach lead the NFL in total defense.

"It's good to see Cason out there," Rivera said after a recent offseason training activity. "Steve Wilks and I have a little bit of history with him, and he did some nice things out there today."

Wilks, the Panthers' secondary coach and passing defense coordinator, certainly is excited about the reunion.

"Cason does a great job of really studying the game," Wilks said. "He understands formation splits, personnel looks and what the offense is trying to do. That gives him an opportunity to be able to anticipate things.

"He also has great work ethic. The guy is smart in the classroom, and he comes out here and applies it on the field."

Cason, for his part, is glad to be working with Wilks again and is also getting up to speed with a helping hand from Curtis Fuller, a defensive assistant helping with the defensive backs.

"Coach Wilks and Coach Fuller are doing their best to give us everything they need to give us," Cason said. "They're doing a heck of a job, and now we just have to go out there, put it on the field and communicate.

"We're building with each other to where it's, ‘I know where he's going to be. He knows where I'm going to be.' It will all fit together like a puzzle a lot sooner than later as we continue to work at it and everybody has that same attitude."

When the puzzle pieces are all in place, Cason hopes to again find himself listed as a starter. He's got a good chance of reaching that goal, but he's more focused on the goals of the team and how he can make them a reality.

"From a capability standpoint, this team is off the charts, no question about it," Cason said. "We're all enjoying our time together and are always doing things together that bring you closer and helps you know who your brother is on the field.

"I'm enjoying myself."