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Rookie Diaries: Jaycee Horn is making plays, but also notes


SPARTANBURG — The two interceptions were easy to see, and certainly not an unwelcome sight.

But the Panthers have such high expectations for cornerback Jaycee Horn, and he has them for himself, so his reaction to a pair of picks in practice Monday morning was subdued. For Horn, it was different than his reaction to his first interception Saturday night, his first of his career as a pro that's been years in the making.

In fact, there was actually more to pick apart in what appeared to be a successful practice for the No. 8 overall pick.

Head coach Matt Rhule certainly isn't going to take takeaways for granted — they only had seven interceptions last year, next to last in the NFL — but his reaction to Horn's morning was to push him to do more, to be better.

"Yeah, but Jaycee's grabbing and holding way too much," Rhule said when asked about the interceptions. "I love Jaycee's tenacity, but he's got to master his craft along the way, and he knows that. But the ball finds him, and he certainly finds a way to get to the ball. There's no doubt about the things he can do.

"Like any player, you see the good things, and you've got to focus on the bad things. . . . He's a young player, and he's going to get better and better."

The emphasis, clearly, is on the improvement.

"I try not to overthink it," he said of Rhule's instruction. "I just try to focus on it, just take the coaching, and work on it. But I definitely don't want to overthink it and get me out of my game. I just want to play ball.

"But I definitely need to work on it; I definitely need to keep my hands out of there but still bring the physical mindset and the physical attitude to the game."

That was it. Make a play, good or bad, and onto the next one.

He's handling his rookie training camp the same way.

Being born into an NFL family meant that Horn's not walking in star-struck, or awed by a different level of intensity. While camp is usually an adjustment for any rookie, the son of former Saints wideout Joe Horn is familiar with it and ready to move on to the next thing.

"Nah, not really," he replied when asked if there was anything more complicated about the transition from college to pro. "It's still been football.

"I've just got to learn more of the offense, but that's the only difference to me."

Nor does the burden of the team's expectations of him (which again, begins with making these kinds of plays) weigh on the rookie.

"Nah, my dad played in the league, a four-time Pro Bowler, pressure ain't nothing new to me," he said. "I'm just ready to ball."

The familiarity with the NFL culture also helps Horn understand that every day is not going to be like today. The offense had a particularly sloppy practice, with bad routes and turnovers and penalties galore. He's not anticipating that being a trend.

That's why his unflappable demeanor, his lack of reactions to the highs should serve him well.

"It helps a lot," Horn said. "It's the NFL, so there's going to be days you get beat, days you make plays, you've just got to stay on one level every day and get better every day. And that's kind of the mindset I have. . . .

"It definitely gets you excited for the season. We showed flashes of what we can do (as a defense), but it's not just one day. We've got a lot of practices left. The offense may come out here and have their day. So you've got to keep working and keep stacking good days on top of each other. . . . I try to stay even. it's the NFL, you're going to get beat too. But it definitely helps to come out here and get my hands on a few balls. And just play good football."

That part seems to be a given with Horn. But they don't want him to accept that, though there seems to be little danger of that.

"It felt good, but 'What's next?' is kind of the mentality we bring," Horn said. "So I was just ready for the next play.

"Just playing ball. I didn't really have no special feeling. I'm out there to make plays, and that's my job, and that's what I try to do."

View photos from Monday's training camp practice at Wofford.

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