Senn works hard, play hard

CHARLOTTE - In analyzing the play of Jordan Senn following his first extensive action at linebacker as a Carolina Panther, head coach John Fox described how Senn threw his body around.

Teammate Marcus Hudson simply described Senn as a "baller."

There are countless ways and words to describe the mad-dog mentality that Senn brings to the football field, but there's only one apt description of why he plays that way.

"Being my size," Senn said, "I have no choice."

When Senn, at 224 pounds, took on Atlanta Falcons running back Michael Turner on back-to-back plays at the goal line last week, Turner had more than 20 pounds on him.

It didn't matter.

Senn nearly caused a fumble on the first play, his agility paying off when he tackled Turner near the goal line and stripped him of the ball at the same time as they tumbled to the turf. On the next play, Senn refused to allow his lack of size get in his way, getting just as low to the ground as the 247-pound Turner (both are 5-11) to stuff him at the goal line.

"I've got to use my size to my advantage. If I stay low and stay aggressive and violent, I can make do," Senn said. "Countless games, I look across from me on special teams and I see linebackers that are like 6-3, 250. I know they're looking at me like, 'This is the guy I'm about to block? This is going to be easy.'

"I take the approach that, 'I don't care how big you are, you're not going to block me.'"

Special teams is Senn's bread and butter - he's playing about 10 pounds lighter than he has in the past to help improve his effectiveness on special teams - but last Sunday, Senn got the call on defense.

The third-year pro hadn't seen any regular season reps at linebacker since he played for the Indianapolis Colts early in the 2009 season. He didn't even play that much linebacker at Portland State, actually playing safety before switching to weak side linebacker as a senior.

But against the Falcons, when multiple injuries opened the door, Senn responded with eight tackles.

"It was exciting," said Senn, whose father just happened to be at the game, in town from Oregon on business. "I hadn't really played linebacker in quite some time, since Week 5 in Indy last season. I was a little nervous just because I hadn't been out there."

If Senn - picked up by the Panthers last October after the Colts waived him - was rusty, it didn't show. And his performance was made more impressive by his couple of weeks leading up to the start.

Senn played the weakside spot that came open when Jason Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury, but he wasn't able to concentrate on the position until late last week. He worked at middle linebacker early last week with Jon Beason resting his knee, and he spent much of the previous week on the strong side with James Anderson sidelined by a concussion.

"It's been challenging," Senn said. "It's one thing to know the three positions in the playbook, but it's another thing to step onto the field and react to those things. It can be hard, but it's been fun.

"Practice goes by so much faster when you're out there doing new stuff. I'd much rather be trying a new position with the starters than doing the scout stuff."

This week, Senn might return to a reserve role. He is probable to play with an ankle injury that limited him early in the week, but Nic Harris looks set to return from a concussion.

Still, if the Panthers turn to Senn again, they now know what they'll get.

"I'm aggressive," he said. "Once you step on the game field, you've got to fly around and hit people."

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