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Rookie Diaries: Deonte Brown working to fit in

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CHARLOTTE — For Deonte Brown, this weekend is all about settling into a new environment and seeing where he fits.

And for the Panthers, that also means learning about Brown, and how they can help him be the best version of himself.

The massive guard was a value pick for the Panthers in the sixth round, after a decorated career at Alabama. Now, he's trying to prove himself to a new staff by learning as much as he can in this first minicamp, in an effort to get on the field as quickly as possible.

"The biggest thing I'm trying to get out of this weekend is just showing how fast I can learn the playbook, so I can be a tool they can use at some point," Brown said.

While rookie minicamp is mostly an introduction, what Brown showed the Panthers in the pre-draft process is that he's a large and strong man, whose mass makes him a different kind of player than many of their existing options.

Keeping that mass at a manageable level has always been one of the questions with Brown, who vowed on draft weekend it wouldn't be a problem.

The 6-3 1/4 Brown weighed in at the Senior Bowl in January at 364 pounds. He said his initial weigh-in here Thursday was at 347.

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said he wants to keep a realistic goal about Brown's target weight, knowing that his frame is not conducive to being too lean.

"I don't think he's ever going to be a 310-pound guy," Rhule said. "That's just not who he is. He's a big, powerful man. . . .

"I would love it if he was in the, ... most guys wish he'd be in the 330s, but he might be a 340-pound guy."

While here, Brown will work closely with Kate Callaway, the team's director of performance nutrition. Rhule called Callaway "one of the stars of this place," and she's already been in contact with her counterparts with Alabama to come up with a plan for Brown.

"I know Kate will do what it takes to help him," Rhule said. "She's really special."

Rhule said the team would also lean on the sports science department to put all the players who arrived this weekend through a series of body mass and movement and strength tests to help determine an ideal weight.

After they make that calculation, the hope is they can tap into Brown's natural power to help stabilize a line that has needed an overhaul after last season. What they don't know yet is how all the parts fit together. Brown played left guard at Alabama last year, starting all 13 games and earning All-SEC honors.

"I believe I have the athletic ability to be able to (compete for a starting job)," Brown said. "I believe I can play anywhere, it's just about opportunity."

This weekend gives him a chance to begin that process, reconnecting with offensive line coach Pat Meyer after a week at the Senior Bowl. That kind of access was key, and Brown considers himself fortunate to have it after last year's rookies had to prepare in a virtual format.

"Everything is learning in the classroom," Brown said. "If you can't learn it there, you really can't apply it to the field. So that's the first step.

"(This weekend) gives us the upper hand. I'm fortunate to be in a class where you get to be here in person, see the plays, actually get hands-on learning. That's different than just seeing a coach or seeing plays on the screen."

View photos from Carolina's first minicamp practice with the rookies on Friday.

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