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Lotulelei, Short quickly form tandem

CHARLOTTE – Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short became a tandem as soon as the Panthers drafted the pair of defensive tackles in the first two rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft.

As back-to-back picks playing the same position, the label was inevitable.

"That's a very good tandem," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I'm excited about who they can become."

Friday's rookie minicamp was their first opportunity to work together on the field, marking the beginning of what Rivera believes will be a long, productive partnership in the middle of Carolina's defense.

"When you draft guys there you have an opportunity to keep them together for a long time – six, seven, eight years down the line," Rivera said. "They'll develop that rapport that you see when a group has been together a while. They also can lean on each other."

Both players will deal with the weight of expectation in their first seasons as both are expected to make an immediate impact.

But Lotulelei's first round label undeniably brings added pressure.

"I'll say this: back in my day I was drafted right behind (linebacker) Wilber Marshall, and it took a lot of pressure off of me," said Rivera, a former linebacker for the Chicago Bears. "I think that's the situation for KK. Star will get a lot more of the attention, so it will take pressure off KK.

"It'll help (Star) to have somebody who understands what he's going through right now."

And they're gaining a better understanding of one another.

Their personality differences are obvious.

"KK is a little more demonstrative," Rivera said. "Star is a little more reserved."

But in the eyes of the veterans and coaches, they'll receive the same rookie treatment.

"It's pretty good, (I'm) not the only young guy in the defensive line room," Short said. "Everyone is picking on both of us.

"We are just building that chemistry. We texted pretty much every other day before we came (to Charlotte)."

Short has been working on bringing out the personality in the admittedly soft-spoken Lotulelei.

"(Star) has to open up to you to really have a conversation," Short said. "We sit next to each other in meetings and we barely say anything; we're focused and trying to learn our playbook. But when we go out to lunch he's talking and opening up."

And with day one complete, the Panthers' new defensive tackle tandem is off to a good start.

"I've been getting to know (Kawann) a lot, especially being in the facility all day today," Lotulelei said. "He's cool. I can tell we are going to work well together."

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