SPARTANBURG, S.C. – When defensive tackle Kawann Short arrived at training camp last season to begin play under the second half of his rookie contract, Short was seen as a player on the rise.
Now, after a remarkable year and with the final season of his first NFL contract set to start, Short arrived Wednesday at training camp knowing it won't be long before the size of his game checks will rise to meet his level of play.
Even so, Short reported to Wofford College with his focus firmly on a different bottom line – the one determined each Sunday between the white lines that put him in a position for a significant pay raise in the first place.
"It's just hard work paying off. That sums it up," Short said. "It's not about the contract. It's about helping this team. I love the Carolina Panthers, love the organization, and hopefully things can get done.
"I'm just here to play football and get better and help this team. Last year was a great year for me, but I need to do even better this year."
That relentless work ethic – along with a wealth of talent that was underestimated by some three years ago – helped Short tie for the NFL lead among defensive tackles with 11 sacks last season. As a second-round draft choice by the Panthers in 2013, there is no fifth-year rookie contract option like Carolina recently exercised on 2013 first-rounder Star Lotulelei.
But Short doesn't consider sitting out to try to force a contract extension sooner rather than later an option. He's under contract through the 2016 season, and he said Wednesday that he'll play under that contract if a new one isn't reached. He wouldn't venture a guess as to whether a deal would get done before the season kicks off.
"It's a process we've got to go through, but I'm here to play football now and let my agent and the organization handle all that," said Short, who characterized the relationship between him and the Panthers as "good" and added that the situation isn't a distraction.
"I haven't been dealing with it. I've just been working out this summer, putting myself in position to try to get better," Short said. "I don't know about discussions. I just know I'm at the right place right now, and that's being in Spartanburg in training camp."
View photos of Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short during his eight seasons with Carolina. Short ranks seventh in franchise history with 32.5 sacks.