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Rookie Diaries: Cade Mays stays prepared at any position 


CHARLOTTE – Cade Mays is like the "Swiss army knife" for the Panthers' offensive line, head coach Matt Rhule said. The rookie can play all five positions – and Carolina has worked him at all of them throughout training camp and into the preseason.

Luckily for Carolina, Mays is used to that kind of movement.

Mays' versatility to play across the line, which he displayed throughout college at both Georgia and Tennessee, was part of the reason the Panthers drafted him in the sixth round.

"I've taken that role on since I was a freshman in college," Mays said. "Even in high school, (it) was just if they needed somebody to play this specific position for a play, I was going to be the one to do it.

"I've taken that role on. Anything I can do to help the team – anything that will make me stick in this league, I want to do it."

Cade Mays

Because he has experience moving across the offensive line, Mays said he knew to study the playbook and always be ready for any situation.

"I'm trying to be prepared for all those positions," Mays said. "When you prepare for all of them, you don't get surprised when it ends up happening. Because most of the time it ends up happening, where you're going to be playing somewhere you're not expected to."

Even still, Mays said he's still seen a lot of personal growth from the start of training camp toward the end of the preseason. He said the NFL is similar to college, but he's taking extra steps to keep himself ready now that football is his job "every single day."

While football is now Mays' primary responsibility, he said he has shouldered any added pressure well.

"I try not to think about it," Mays said. "I just go out and do me. Everything's going to fall into place how it should. . . . Just do all you can do, and the chips are going to fall where they are."

Cade Mays

When he goes to look for advice, Mays said he has leaned on veterans at his position group, such as Bradley Bozeman, Pat Elflein, Taylor Moton, and Austin Corbett, who has been impressed by how the rookie has taken on all that he's had to shoulder.

Corbett said he's seen Mays grow comfortable and keep a "quiet mind" while he's shuffled at multiple positions along the line.

"For him just to come in and be thrown around like he is from different positions, he's handling it pretty well," Corbett said. "(I'm) happy to see how he's handling the playbook and really taking command, especially at the center position."

Mays has been mixed in multiple backup spots throughout the preseason, taking a number of reps at both guard spaces along the second-team offensive line while also getting work at tackle.

And since Bozeman sustained an ankle injury in New England, Mays has continued to work at center, too.

Cade Mays

"I like his play style," Rhule said. "He plays hard. He has some development to do in terms of playing with great pad level and playing a little lower, but he can go into a game and play right tackle. He can play center."

With all of the shifting his role as a five-spot backup naturally entails, Mays has taken time to gel with his teammates on and off the field so that sliding in at any spot is practically seamless.

Through training camp, the trip to Washington, and the trip to Boston, the Panthers have had plenty of time to bond and create chemistry away from Charlotte.

For Mays, dinners with the offensive line and getting to know his teammates' "personal sides" have helped them all build off-field connections.

And he said it also helps that they're all united under one goal – winning.

"We're all on the same trek," Mays said. "We're all on the same journey, trying to accomplish the same goal. That's one thing we all have in common. We all want to win. . . . It's really easy to gel, and I'm loving it. I'm enjoying it. I've got great teammates, and (I'm) looking forward to the season."

View photos from practice on Tuesday as the Panthers prepare for Friday's home game against Buffalo.

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