David Tepper takes in first annual league meeting

PHOENIX – David Tepper is holding back. Usually not shy about voicing his opinion, the Panthers’ owner is attempting not to step on toes during his first appearance at the NFL’s annual spring meeting.

“I'm trying to, for what I would do otherwise, just slow play it a little bit,” Tepper said during a brief break between Monday’s meetings. “I have been pretty quiet and trying to be somewhat reserved - for me. It doesn't do me any good to voice things. It’s a long game I'm playing.”

Patience also describes how the Panthers played free agency in Tepper’s first full offseason. They laid back a bit, searching for value. And that's what they believe they got in deals with center Matt Paradis, offensive tackle Daryl Williams and linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin.

“It wasn't splashy,” Tepper admitted, “but if you look what people rated it - why does anything I say make any difference versus what people on the outside are saying? People generally thought we had a solid free agency. I think we had a very solid free agency. There's no other way to say it.”

Clearly, improving both lines is a priority. An added wrinkle on defense, though, is a plan to show different looks. If the Panthers are going to use some 3-4 concepts, that requires some different personnel.

“Obviously, Irvin was a key to that. It makes a lot of sense in that scheme. I was in the building when he came. That's the tallest linebacker I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of good linebackers in my day down in Pittsburgh. I've never seen one with that length,” Tepper said of the 6-foot-3 Irvin. “I think there's a respect for length as a pass rusher, and if that's the scheme we're going to do, he seems to fit into that scheme pretty well.”

Of course, the roster is still a work in progress. Despite sitting near the bottom of the league in available cap space, there could be another free agent addition or two. And the Panthers currently hold seven picks in next month’s draft.

“We have to get another offensive lineman, another pass rusher, another safety, running back. Those are the obvious ones,” Tepper said when asked what’s left to in the roster-building process. “Could there be a quarterback somewhere [in the draft]? It's not impossible.”

Meanwhile, the team’s starting quarterback is rehabbing from an arthroscopic shoulder procedure. From everything Tepper is hearing, Cam Newton is chugging right along.

“It seems like he's training, it seems like he's doing well getting ready for the season and we expect him to be good,” Tepper said. “I feel good about that.”

He also feels good about the construction equipment that began to descend on the Bank of America Stadium practice fields last week. As promised, the indoor practice field s happening.

“I told people we'd have it in one year. You can't have it faster than we're going to have it there. It's not possible. We won't be practicing in the rain next year,” Tepper said.

“Listen, the key in this game is to get every edge you can possibly get. And that's what we're trying to achieve.”

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