On the first day of practice in pads:"It was good. You got to get used to it again. You know you run around all OTAs, all minicamps, and it's just helmets and then you put those on, you put the shoulder pads on and it's a little bit of an adjustment. Greg and I were talking that you gotta get used to having them on, but that is what this time is for, moving forward we will get more used to them."
On his scouting report of Christian McCaffrey:"He's quick. He's got shake. He's fast. He got me today on one run, but luckily Thomas was right next to me. He's fast. He's quick, but the way he runs, you can tell that he's done it a few times, he's very precise with his movements. He is in an out of breaks quick. He does a good job, and I think he is going to be somebody who can help us out."
On what it's like facing an open field when Christian McCaffrey is setting him up with his move:"It's not a good feeling. You hope that somebody is by him. Him and Fozzy and Curtis Samuel is like that, too. Guys that are shifty and you got to make sure that you are playing with good leverage and hopefully some other guys on the team are running to help you out. Those guys are good in the open field and they present problems for guys on defense."
On Cam's comment about being on his to-do list to trash talk him each day at practice:"Uh-Oh. I can't hang Thomas out; I have to help Thomas out sometimes so it's a good back and forth. Thomas and Cam have a little bit higher level of trash talking than I do, but Thomas doesn't need a whole lot of help. Sometimes you got to get in there and reinforce something that Thomas has said. My skill level at that is not very good, but I just try to run around and play and then every once in a while, when something is easy, I'll throw a jab in."
On his early scouting report on Ben Boulware:"He asks good questions, I remember when I first got here I asked Beas and Thomas and Jordan Senn was in our linebacker when I first got here. I asked those guys a million questions, on the field and off the field, about how to play this coverage, how to fit the run this way and now Ben is kind of the same way. He asks good questions. He asks smart questions. He asks questions that let you know that he is thinking and understanding and processing what is going on. I think he is smart. I think he does a really good job understanding the defense. I think his time to shine is when the pads go on. Some guys are athletes. Some guys are football players. I think he is a football player. He's better at, sometimes, when the pads are on and it's a live period, and you're running and getting off blocks. I think that is his game so he is going to get a good opportunity here in the next few weeks to kind of show what he's got.
On if Ben Boulware is more thirsty for knowledge then other rookies:"I mean, yeah, he just asks good questions, and I can kind of speak more for our room because that's when the more questions come in for me and guys in our room. Zeek asks good questions, and Ben asks a ton of questions and that is one thing that you like to hear is a guy that wants to learn. You'll tell Ben one thing and then you'll see him do it. That's what's cool, is when guys take what they are told and put it on the field. Al Holcomb, our linebacker coach does a good job of making adjustments and making sure that guys understand how to do things in their way. One person might understand it this way, someone else may understand it that way, but he does a good job of mixing and matching based on who his guy is."
On if he was looking forward to getting back in full pads:"I wasn't like looking forward to it, looking forward to it, I was looking forward to training camp and the practices and stuff like that. I never really had this day circled as far as 'alright there's shoulder pads are going to go on and we are going to have contact again.' I've never really had that day circled. It's an acclamation period of an hour in the heat and now practices are longer and then the next step is into the pads. I think everyone has just got to get used to them again.
On having Julius Peppers and Captain Munnerlyn back at the Panthers:"You look at Julius Peppers; he is a Hall of Famer. He played for a long time. He's Julius Peppers and I think that is what he brings. I mean obviously he can still play a lot, but he's Julius Peppers and I think that is just kind of cool. I grew up watching him. I remember when he was in Chicago when we played them my rookie year. I had never met him, I had never seen him, but I wanted to make sure I had walked by him just to see him, which I got a chance to do. Now he is on our team which is really cool, and I got to play with Cap my first two years and he is a fun guy to have out there. He's physical. He's got an edge to him. Those two guys are going to be good for us. I like having them both back. I like having Captain back because I liked playing with him the first two years when I was here, and then obviously having Julius back just adds kind of that. I don't know, it's Julius Peppers so I just think it's kind of cool.
On possibly shifting McCaffrey to other positions:"Well, he's a running back but he can also run routes. I think he's a route tree, so he can run a slant. He can run a seven. He can run all kinds of different routes, and I think when you have a running back who can do that it poses problems. When they motion him out wide he's got a route tree that he can run versus some running backs who are either going to run a slant or like a zig route. He's got different routes he can run, you got to know where he is, and for us as linebackers you got to make sure you're good because when he gets in space. It's different then him coming out of the backfield. When he's in space he's got the whole field so you got to make sure you're leverage is good, you got to make sure you know where your help is too, but they've done a good job of making sure to put him in different areas of the field and letting him kid of do his thing."
On if he is having to communicate more:"I don't think we have to communicate more, I just think you have to kind of understand who's in front of you because all of those adjustments are the same whether it is Fozzy, whether it is Christian, whether it's Stew, whether it's Cameron Artis-Payne, whether it's Scoop, you kind of just have to understand the personnel in front of you."
On how the experienced linebackers will aid in the development of Christian McCaffrey:"I think it is good for us, he has a skill set that is unique. He can run routes, he can catch the ball out of the backfield, he can run it between the tackles. He's quick, and I think we have some guys that play during the season kind of like that. I think Devonte Freeman is kind of like that in Atlanta. I think he is really good. I think practicing against Christian will help us a little bit. I think New Orleans always has guys like that that are problem guys out of the backfield that they split out or move them around or put them in a position that we have to make sure we know what we doing. Tampa's got the guy who missed some time last season, Sims, who is the same type of dude, quick, shifty, can run clean routes, you got to know where he is.
On the direction of the organization with some older guys coming in:"You're bringing Pep and Cap, and Mike Adams is another guy, I think what helps you as a team is if you have some young guy and then some older guys who can kind of help with leadership and understanding of football, and kind of a calming presence, kind of the guys who have been around and done it. Once you mix those guys with younger guys, it's a good mix. Bringing Pep back he is a good vet, great vet, to have around, and I think Captain is the same way, and Mike, and that room was very young last year, in the DB room. Kurt did a really good job, that older guy in that room, who helped those guys tremendously, and you add to older guys in there with Mike and Cap, I just think it helps. We've got some young guys, James and Daryl and Zack that I think those two edge guys are really good, and Zack is playing well. When you can mix those two young guys in the outside, and you have Kurt and Cap and Mike in the slot, I think that mixture together kind of helps everything."
On his concerns regarding concussions:"I'm not worried about it. We've addressed it in the offseason and now. It's not a concern of mine. I only think about it when it gets brought up. It's not going to be an issue. Our guys do a great job of making sure everybody's good to go. I'm excited to get ready for the season, and we just hope we don't have any more."
On he has any anxiety getting back on the field:"Anxiety would've been in OTAs when I was practicing again or maybe the anxiety would've been at the end of the season, the last three weeks when I got cleared. But there wasn't any. I don't anticipate any. I'm not too concerned about it."
On if there is an instant difference in speed on the other side of the ball with the addition of McCaffrey along with Samuel, Shepard, and Graham:"There are some fast fast guys out there. Obviously Christian is fast and Curtis is fast, but there are some dudes that can roll, that are fast. You watch tape and there are dudes just flying, there's tons of them. I think that's good for us. Speed creates space. It creates problems. It scares people. When you have a guy that can really, really run you've got to take him into account, and we've got a couple of guys that are just fast. That helps everyone else out, and it's fun to see that they're on our team. But it's also kinda scary when you play against them everyday that this dude can just fly. And that's good for us."
On his thoughts of the firing of Dave Gettleman:"It's one of those situations. Mr. Gettleman came in and did a really good job and helped us get to the Super Bowl. You guys know how this business works. Sometimes decisions are made and people move in different directions. But the good thing for us is that even though Mr. Gettleman left, Marty is back and he's a familiar face. Not only with the team, but with guys on the team, people upstairs and downstairs, all throughout the facility and even in Charlotte. Everybody still kinda knows Marty. Marty's got a bunch of guys on this team that either he drafted or brought in or just knows. That's something that's good for us. Obviously a week before the season it could've been a big issue, but bringing in Marty kinda calms the waters. People are familiar with him. Marty understands our personnel because he's still in Charlotte. I think we're in a good spot."
On his thoughts on outsiders picking the team to finish at the bottom of the conference:"Obviously, last year didn't go as we planned. Atlanta played obviously really well last year. It's just one of those situations where you're your record until you prove otherwise, and last year we weren't great. We had some close games we weren't able to win, but I think having a couple guys back with another year under their belt; the two corners have really moved in the right direction. We had some good pieces on offense; we've got some good guys back on defense. I think if we can stay healthy and move things in the right direction, we're going to be a lot better that that."
On if he's expecting a big bounce back year from Cam:"Cam is a competitor, and I know last year wasn't how he wanted it to go. I guarantee one thing, he wasn't happy with last year and he's going to do everything he can to be better. I think he's going to have a good year, I think we're going to have a good year, and hopefully things go our way, we stay healthy and we make some noise."
On if his injury last season made him appreciate what he has now:"Obviously, when you can't play because you're hurt or whatever, I think that's different than being cleared. Kinda like you said, being cleared but you're not able to play. I think it just kinda makes you realize how much you like playing and you enjoy the game and you miss it. So I think obviously I was bummed that I couldn't play and stuff like that, but at the same time it gives you a different perspective on how much you miss it and how much you enjoy playing. Things get hard sometimes, but it makes you realize that the hard times are worth it because I love football."
On some areas he can improve this season:"I think I can always improve pass coverage. That's one thing that you know I did some good things in pass coverage last year, but I also left some things on the field. That's one thing that I can really improve on. If I can play tighter in certain spaces and certain situations I think it allows the pass rush to really work. That's something I'm consciously working on, whether it's leverage or knowing where there's help or taking one way away from a guy or something like that. I've got to do a better job in certain situations in the passing game. Not only to not only help the rush, but to help the other guys as well."
On his reaction to the CTE test results:"Honestly, you know, I didn't read it. I've been busy with stuff around here. But, I think everybody understands in football there's a knowledge of risk and you know, you decide to play because you like to play. That's kind where that is. I've kinda addressed the whole head/concussion deal in the past, and for me I've moved on from it. I understand what's going on, but I'm going to keep playing football. Our guys, Ryan Vermillion and Dr. Heyer do a good job of doing everything they can to make sure that guys are good and healthy. They take steps when they need to, to make sure that guys are healthy and I think over the past few years our team has done a very good job of taking care of that. With Cam and different guys on our team, it doesn't matter who you are, if there's something wrong you're not going to play. That's one thing that I appreciate about this organization, they care about the player as person first and makes sure that they're healthy and not putting themselves at any more risk. I've moved on, I've talked about it. It is what it is."
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