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Derrick Brown already looking to the future

Derrick Brown

CHARLOTTE – Derrick Brown will give himself time to reflect on his third season. But only a limited time.

There's plenty for the Panthers' defensive tackle to be proud of from a personal standpoint. Brown put himself in Carolina's record books, finishing the season with 67 tackles, tying Mike Rucker (2002) for the most by a Panthers defensive lineman in a single season.

In Week 15, he passed Kawann Short's record 55 tackles (2015/2016) for the most tackles by a Panthers defensive tackle in a season. His seven pass deflections this year were a single-season-best and tied for second-most by a defensive lineman in the NFL this year with J.J. Watt, Jeffery Simmons, and George Karlaftis.

But Brown said he wouldn't spend too much time looking back. Instead, he'll reorient to how he can improve for 2023 to try to help lead the Panthers on an upward trajectory.

"Personally, I'll say I'm going to take a few days and reflect on the season, then I'm going to get started on next year, to be honest," Brown said while packing up his locker to close out the season. "Had a decent year; looking for an exciting year next year, so I'm going to go ahead and put all my focus that way."

Brown started the season shedding his weight to 320 pounds, the result of an intentional offseason for the former first-round draft pick. He went on to outpace his first two years in the league by a longshot – tallying 26 more tackles and three more pass deflections than last season, and adding his first career interception (a one-handed grab against Jameis Winston in Week 3).

Brown said he "came into himself" more this year, an improvement he had felt since the preseason.

"It's just one of those things where I felt comfortable from the day I stepped into camp and all the offseason work I did last year," Brown said. "I came into a spot where I was (ready to) be dominant this year."

Even with individual achievements and honors (which included being named Carolina's nomination for 2022 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year), Brown was quick to mention his wish that the season hadn't ended in Week 18.

He said he found the motivation to look forward within the Panthers' push to a 7-10 record despite their 1-5 start this season.

"Us going 1-5, and then being able to turn it around and win six games, it's a lot of motivation going into next season," Brown said. "These guys, we put our backs against the wall. And we just kept fighting."

Carolina maintained a realistic shot to win the NFC South throughout December, and its postseason hopes came to a close with a New Year's Day loss at Tampa Bay.

And that glimpse into what success looks like is what Brown said will propel him heading into the offseason.

"We got a taste of meaningful football in December; that's something that, when I go into the offseason, I'm thinking about the whole time," Brown said. "Finally, in year three, I was able to get that. And you know, I'm excited about what the future holds."

View photos from Monday's clean-out day as Panthers players packed their things and bid farewell to their teammates for the offseason.

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