CHARLOTTE – Panthers defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos is excited for what's to come in his rookie season. But as you might expect during a pandemic, the second-round pick out of Penn State described his first NFL offseason as "kind of strange."
"Just trying to get a feel for people over FaceTime and stuff isn't really the same," Gross-Matos said with a laugh. "So honestly, I can't wait to get back in the building and get ready to compete with those guys."
Even though it was virtual, Gross-Matos and his fellow members of the Panthers' 2020 class did get a helpful kickstart with a rookie minicamp in early May.
"(It) was meeting after meeting after meeting. I think what they did a lot was they gave us a lot of tools and a lot of information," Gross-Matos said. "I think it was really sharing a lot of what it takes to be a successful team and a successful player in the NFL.
"We did a lot of learning, a lot of scheme — things you need to know about the defense. But they did a lot of other things outside of that, whether it was mental training and the best way to stay in shape, stuff like that. So it's been an incredible learning process ever since I got picked up by the Panthers."
While Gross-Matos hasn't been on the field yet, he feels his role in coordinator Phil Snow's defensive scheme doesn't feel drastically different than what Gross-Matos was doing at Penn State.
"I think it's a different type of learning style," he said. "Obviously, it's me getting used to learning different terminology and kind of unlearning what you learned before. And I think they ask you to learn a lot more at this level.
"(I'm) kind of thinking back like, 'Man if I had known this in college,' I feel like I would've been able to do so much more. So there's been a lot of learning going on."
Even though they haven't been able to get together in-person, Gross-Matos did describe some solid interaction between the rookie class, with guys often chatting and laughing toward the end of meetings.
"You see little peeks of people's personality come out," Gross-Matos said. "There are some people who talk and then other people who don't really talk a lot. So getting with those guys in person would be different and more helpful in making those relationships."
And with rookies scheduled to report to Charlotte in less than two weeks, Gross-Matos is getting closer to what he craves the most — getting back on the field.
"Competing with my teammates, competing with all the other rookies we drafted and the ones fighting for those spots, and making a good impression to earn the respect of my teammates," Gross-Matos said. "That's my main focus right now."
View photos of Carolina's second-round pick, defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, out of Penn State.