CHARLOTTE – For the first time Tuesday, second-round draft choice Curtis Samuel lined up against the Luke Kuechlys of the world.
"You're playing against vets, guys who know the game really well," Samuel said following the rookie's first organized team activity. "You've got to bring it when you go out there."
Bring it, yes, but the Cam Newtons of the world – OK, actually Cam Newton himself – brought a little advice to the speedy Samuel.
"The main thing Cam was emphasizing to me was that I don't need to try to do too much, do things too fast," Samuel said of a late-practice exchange with his quarterback. "Just slow down and let your talents take over.
"It's great, having a guy like that who has done so well in the league there to give you insight on little things. He's watching out for me, sharing little things that will help me."
Newton isn't throwing during OTAs as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery, but he's attended all four OTAs so far. Samuel wasn't at the first three OTAs; the wide receiver was home following the death of his grandmother.
"I love my family. I'm just thankful my grandma was able to watch me along my journey," Samuel said. "It was great being back. To be able to play football again, it was a great feeling."
Samuel already knew the routine of a Panthers practice having participated in rookie minicamp the weekend after he was drafted, but Tuesday took it to an entirely new level. Instead of going up against fellow rookies and invited tryouts, Samuel faced off against the entirety of Carolina's deep and talented roster.
"I feel like I did OK for my first OTA," he said. "I want to let the game come to me, be patient and be as productive as I can. I just want to make the most of this opportunity."
It's hard to imagine Samuel, whose 4.3-seocnd time in the 40-yard dash was the second fastest at the NFL Scouting Combine, getting ahead of himself. He wants to play fast, even at practice, but there is such a thing as playing too fast.
"There's nothing wrong with running fast. It's about slowing things down in your head," Samuel said. "I can go full speed, but I need to slow down in my mind and really relax my body, focus and catch the ball."
One play from Tuesday probably came to mind for Samuel. After making a couple of notably nice catches in positon drills, he didn't complete a catch in team drills when the offense had blockers set up for him on a wide receiver screen.
"I'm trying to prove myself to guys, show them why I deserve to be here," Samuel said. "But I've just got to relax. It's like that with me sometimes.
"I'll be good, though. I've just got to slow everything down and I'll be all right."
The personal push to prove yourself is only natural, but one of Samuel's fellow wide receivers said it's not necessary. Devin Funchess, a Michigan product, is already a believer in Samuel, who hails from the other side of one of college football's fiercest rivalries.
"It's the same thing I saw at Ohio State – he's electric," Funchess said. "He's just got to put it all together. We can use that weapon and we will. He's got a high ceiling."
View photos from the second week of Carolina's organized team activities.