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Dan Arnold thinks he's ready to take the next step

Dan Arnold

CHARLOTTE — Dan Arnold is hungry.

For the new Panthers tight end, that's mostly about professional development, but also a measure of local investigation.

The Panthers added the veteran tight end in March, at a time in which the future of the position in their offense was a bit unknown, as he was. Now that he has a few months of practice under his belt, he's hoping that getting to training camp and getting to work clears some of that up.

"I'm just ready to take on a bigger role, I guess," Arnold said simply of his goals for the coming season. "Having the opportunity to start becoming a good player and a guy who can make a difference on this team, I'm most excited for that.

"I feel like I've done my time; I'm ready to go out and make plays consistently."

Arnold has only shown signs of that in his career, so he's a bit of a projection, but there is enough evidence to suggest he might be right, and that he's found the right place at the right time.

He caught 31 passes for 438 yards and four touchdowns last year for the Cardinals, as he began to show that he could be a threat in the passing game. And the Panthers could certainly use one of those at the position.

Dan Arnold

Despite having four different players with 1,000 yards from scrimmage last year, the Panthers didn't get much production from their tight ends (Ian Thomas led the position group with 20 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown). Changing that was an offseason priority for the team, and something offensive coordinator Joe Brady hopes to expand on.

"The tree that I grew up in, the tight ends are the most important position on the field, the matchups that they create, and everything," Brady said. "It's been a point of emphasis this offseason, just trying to get those guys going in the passing game. And I think those guys have kind of taken and ran with it."

The Panthers also drafted Tommy Tremble in the third round to add to the competitiveness of the position, but he was more of a blocker in college. Head coach Matt Rhule praised Thomas for having a "tremendous offseason," and Arnold looked more and more comfortable as a target for quarterback Sam Darnold as OTAs and minicamp progressed.

Still, Arnold admits it's hard for others to know what to expect, from him or his team this year.

A converted wide receiver from Division III Wisconsin-Platteville, he's still working to become a "complete tight end," and he's among a group of new faces the Panthers brought in this year who are still in the something-to-prove phase of their careers.

"We have a lot of young guys on this team who are waiting for their shot to really make a difference," Arnold said. "When you have a bunch of guys like that, and they all start clicking, that's when you can become dangerous. Obviously, we're going to surprise people because they think we're young and inexperienced and all that, but at the same time, that doesn't mean anything.

"Guys are working their butts off, ready to make a difference. That's what matters in the NFL. Work hard, grind each and every day; they're not going to stop. That's the most important thing. Experience has something to do with it, but if you have a guy who's hungry waiting for his chance versus a guy who has experience and is kind of biding his time, the former is going win every time."

As he's learning how his new team is coming together, he's also learning what he hopes can be his new hometown.

Arnold grew up in the Midwest, and it took him some time to warm up to the South when he signed with New Orleans. That might have had something to do with the fact he was living near the airport and the team facility at first, and it took him some time to really delve into the local history and food scene. When he ended up in Arizona in 2019, he discovered a place that could be all things to all people, even if he didn't quite feel a sense of home.

Dan Arnold

"I hated New Orleans when I first got there, but then as I lived there and got to see the culture I realized there was a lot more to it," he said. "Arizona, it was nice. The weather was good all the time. But I felt like Arizona was chain restaurants everywhere. Like stuff that doesn't belong in Arizona is in Arizona. My mom is from Chicago, and there's a Lou Malnati's there, and I'm like 'This is not supposed to be here.' I didn't feel like Arizona had a lot of original to it. When you've lived in the South, especially New Orleans, it's so different.

"But here, there's a real Southern hospitality; it's just really cool. I think me and the wife are going to like it a lot here. I'm pretty excited to start investigating around Charlotte."

Part of that has already started, as he's bought a home and began checking out the local restaurant scene. He's already found a few local favorites in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood, and hopes to add to the list as he gets to know Charlotte.

"It's the one thing I do, try to find the mom-and-pop places and go and eat. I love that," Arnold said. "That's the coolest thing about here; you have all these mom-and-pop places that have great food, but you walk in, and you're like 'I don't know about this.' But it's great.

"I'm super excited to be here; my wife is going to love it here. I think I'm going to really like it here."

While that might have started as a restaurant review, it could also apply to his own career, and his chance to make a name for himself with a new team as well.

View photos of tight end Dan Arnold as he visits Bank of America Stadium to sign with the Panthers.

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