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Rookie Diaries: Yetur Gross-Matos striving to earn starting role

Yetur Gross-Matos

CHARLOTTE — As a rookie, defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos wasn't entirely sure what to expect from his first NFL training camp. But after getting through a unique camp, the second-round pick feels like everything is going the way it should.

"I've done a lot of learning and a lot of competing," Gross-Matos said. "That's the stuff that makes me happy, so I'm living good right now."

That encompasses a lot, but one of the things he's enjoyed is learning from the veterans around him. Though some of that occurred during the virtual offseason program, it's not the same as being on the field with them every day.

#97 Yetur Gross-Matos, DE

"They give you a whole new perspective," Gross-Matos said. "Even just listening to the way they ask questions. Some things that they know and that they think about, I've never heard before. So I'm just trying to pick their brains as much as possible and just try to take all the good traits and put them in myself."

Rookies often talk about a noticeable shift in game speed from college to the pros. Gross-Matos has certainly felt that in practices so far. 

"Everybody being as good as they are, it seems faster than it actually is," Gross-Matos said. "So just got to get adjusted, and I feel like I've adjusted pretty well."

Gross-Matos hasn't needed to do much adjusting to the pace of practice, though. Head coach Matt Rhule's sessions have featured a brisk tempo, something Gross-Matos is familiar with from his time at Penn State.

"Coach Rhule is big on grinding, and stuff here and coach (James) Franklin was the same way," Gross-Matos said.

Yetur Gross-Matos and Derrick Brown

While camp has lived up to Gross-Matos' expectations, he's doing the same for the coaching staff. He's rotated in with the starting group during camp, and Rhule has said he expects Gross-Matos, defensive tackle Derrick Brown and safety Jeremy Chinn to play significant roles in their first seasons.

"It's good going against different people, testing myself against the ones," Gross-Matos. "They're the best players on the team, so it's good to get out there and to work with those guys, too."

Gross-Matos knows he's not guaranteed to be in the starting lineup when Carolina begins the season against Las Vegas on Sept. 13. But he's working to ensure he'll be putting his hand in the grass as part of the four up front.

"I'm focusing on getting better every day — going through the film with my coaches, my teammates, and finding one thing to work on to make myself that much better," Gross-Matos said. "I'm sure I'll be happy with the final results."

View photos from the Panthers production day of the rookie draft picks in full uniform.

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