SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Defensive end Charles Johnson isn't a big talker. He prefers to stay out of the spotlight and doesn't seek attention.
At least until he straps on his helmet and takes the field.
At that point, Johnson knows opposing offenses are about to give him plenty of attention – rightfully so since he's posted 33 sacks over the last three seasons.
"I just stay working. I just let my play on the field do the talking. I just keep my head down and keep grinding. There's nothing necessary to say until you get those wins going," Johnson said.
Johnson recorded a career-high and team-leading 12.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles last year. He started all 16 games and finished with 46 total tackles.
It was a phenomenal season for the former third-round pick out of Georgia, and his goal entering 2013 is to simply improve those numbers.
"Just try to do better than I did last year," Johnson said. "Always try to get better."
As head coach Ron Rivera said earlier in training camp when asked about Johnson, "The biggest thing is not being satisfied."
That's not a problem for Johnson.
His steadfast work ethic is on display during and after each training camp practice.
Later in that interview, Rivera noted he's seen Johnson work with defensive line coach Eric Washington when practice concludes. After more than two-hour practice, Johnson works on bursting off the line scrimmage, aiming to be a step quicker than the competition late in games.
"I'm working on that first step, just trying to get better on that get-off," Johnson explained. "This summer I was working on that a lot. In the fourth quarter, I want to be coming off (the ball) as fast as possible, especially in third-down situations."
He's also working extensively on becoming a more disruptive force against the run.
"I looked at the film and I didn't stop the run last year like I wanted to," Johnson said. "I've been working on that this year. I gained a little weight. Just trying to tone it up a little bit and, hopefully, I can be (more) stout."
"I like stopping the run, I like being a complete defensive end."
And Johnson hopes to lead a complete defensive line this fall, a unit that's expecting instant impact from the team's first two selections in the 2013 NFL Draft – defensive tackles Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short.
"We still have to see how (the rookies) are going to play," Johnson said. "It's exciting to see how we play out in practice; we have a lot of potential. That's kind of a bad word to use, but we can see that we can be a good defensive line. It's all about going out there and applying it."
Johnson prefers production over potential. He may not speak out about it often and he may not get the league-wide recognition he deserves, but the Panthers know how impactful he is.
And they know he's setting a high standard for a defensive front that's built to wreak havoc in 2013.
"Flying under the radar," Johnson said. "That's not going to stop me from working, trying to get where I want to be. I'm going to keep striving. The more work you put in, the goals and trophies come with it. I just have to keep putting up numbers, (keep) being consistent and all the other stuff will fall into place."