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Carolina Panthers

How a conversation with his dad helped Derrick Brown get back on track

Derrick Brown

CHARLOTTE — Rookie defensive tackle Derrick Brown can compartmentalize well.

When he's at work, he attacks each day to improve. When he's at home, he's a devoted father and fiancé. His second child, Kenzley Rae Brown, was born just last week.

"I like to be where my feet are," Brown said in August.

So when Brown claims he doesn't read or hear much outside praise or criticism, it's a believable statement because it's consistent with his usual demeanor.

But there are exceptions to every rule. Brown always wants to hear from his father, James.

"If I play bad, my dad will let me know," Brown said. "That's really the only person I listen to — and my coaches, of course. When the tape turns on, there's no holding back on that."

Head coach Matt Rhule has praised the No. 7 overall pick for his performances during the first quarter of the season. But Brown revealed on Wednesday that after the Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay, Brown and his father had a long conversation about what James felt needed to change.

"Just getting back to myself," Brown said. "Had a good little talk (about) being able to find my (comfort level) and being able to be Derrick again."

Whatever his father said, it worked. Since then, Brown has made a clear impact on the Panthers' last two games. He recorded three tackles for loss against the Chargers in Week 3. Then he had another TFL plus a run stuff for no gain in last Sunday's win over Arizona.

Asked if anything had clicked, Brown said, "Nothing specifically. Just working with my teammates every single day. Practicing harder. Practice hard, and it's a lot easier on Sunday."

Veteran defensive tackle Kawann Short initially had questions about how Brown would adapt to his role in the NFL. But once they started working together, Short quickly realized Brown understood the expectations.

"As far as him just stepping up, and not complaining, and not trying to take any reps off and coming to work every day, striving to be the best guy on the field — you see that," Short said. "His work ethic is unbelievable."

Playing next to Brown, Short sees what most cannot on a day-to-day basis. And Brown has credited Short with helping him adapt to the league.

So if Short had something to say about Brown's play, he'd likely listen. But if it's an outside source, other than his father, he doesn't need to hear it.

"I've got two kids that I've got to make sure are taken care of for the rest of their lives," Brown said. "And if dad don't play good, I won't be around for long. So that's the motivation I need."


— In just four games, the Falcons have surrendered seven touchdowns to tight ends. Green Bay's Robert Tonyan caught all six of his targets for 98 yards with three touchdowns on Monday night.

By contrast, the Panthers have targeted their tight ends Chris Manhertz and Ian Thomas a combined 12 times. The pair has eight receptions for 59 yards with one touchdown.

Looking at the numbers, this might be a game for those players to get more involved, particularly Thomas. But that's far from guaranteed.

"To me, Ian's growth is all based upon him," Rhule said. "I think he's playing well. I just think for him, he just needs reps. He needs to play. It's the nuances and the subtleties of playing the position that we're trying to put in his repertoire."

Thomas has played the majority of snaps in each of Carolina's first four games. He's caught five passes for 30 yards, including a 2-yard touchdown against the Cardinals last week.

— The Panthers' defense has made significant improvements in the last two weeks, and Rhule thinks a big reason may be the team being able to jell.

"I don't think we can even understate how they just have to get comfortable in the system," Rhule said. "Phil (Snow) and his staff are doing a good job of tailoring what we're doing to the players that we have and what makes them play their best."

Carolina allowed a season-low 262 total yards against Arizona last week. The unit has forced seven turnovers in the past three games.

— With the Titans' ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, some in the media have proposed that the NFL should go to a model of 32 centralized bubbles to complete the season safely. Rhule doesn't see that as necessary for now, given the protocols already in place. Plus, those regulations became more stringent this week. Still, Rhule wouldn't oppose a bubble if it became necessary.

"I like seeing my family," Rhule said. "But that being said, I have a job to do, and my job is to coach this team and lead this franchise as best I can as the football coach. So if they ask me to move to an island, I'm going to do whatever I'm asked to do."

View photos from a sunny practice as the Panthers get ready to go to Atlanta this weekend.

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