CHARLOTTE – It's common to catch rookie linebacker Brandon Smith walking up to practice with a grin.
The Panthers' fourth-round pick in this year's draft out of Penn State said he went into his first NFL training camp with "the right mindset," and that's been evident with the strides he took throughout his first preseason.
"(I) really just made the most out of my opportunities," Smith said. "There were some mistakes that I made here and there, but that's just overall growth with me being a rookie. I'm definitely going to be moving in the right direction."
Smith totaled 10 tackles through Carolina's three preseason games, racking up highlights that included a sack of Patriots' quarterback Bailey Zappe and a pass deflection in Washington.
Smith said he has taken all of the ups and downs that come with the adjustment to professional football in stride. He's open to taking on any role asked of him, combing through his tape to keep himself sharp.
"Whatever I need to do, that's what I'll do for the team," Smith said. "And if I'm not doing the right thing, I'll definitely go back, look at it on film, and make sure that I fix it the next time."
Smith's willingness to fill in whatever role he's asked is good news for defensive coordinator Phil Snow. Snow said he plans to utilize Smith in multiple packages to prepare him for anything that may come up in a reserve linebacker role in a room with veterans like Shaq Thompson and Cory Littleton.
"We'll have a role for him each week," Snow said. "Because at some point this season, he'll probably end up starting. With this league, a lot of injuries happen, so we've got to get him in the fold.
"He's got to play as the season goes, so when he's ready (and) his time comes, he's ready to do it. We'll continually try to bring him along and give him different roles and different packages, so he does get some experience as he goes."
Smith said he has worked to build upon the vocal energy he has taken in from teammates such as Thompson, Damien Wilson, and Frankie Luvu, and it's already translated into elevated confidence ahead of his first game week as a Panther.
"When we're on the field, I'm gaining more and more confidence within myself," Smith said. "(I'm) not becoming a vet, but I'm talking more like a vet. … That's something I'm working toward, and I feel like personally, I'm doing everything I can do to build toward that."
And while he works up to a higher level of confidence in his first year, Smith said he'll maintain the same optimistic demeanor he has carried throughout the preseason – and a smile.
"That's just the person I am," Smith said. "I definitely look at things from the brighter side, and I don't take my situation for granted. Really, I just put on a smile because I'm doing what I love."
View photos of practice in the last week of the preseason before the Panthers turn the page to Cleveland.