SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is handling his contract situation the way you would expect; staying relaxed, not saying too much about it, content to let things play out.
"I try to not think about it too much," Lotulelei said. "At the end of the day, that is a part of what we do – the business side of things – but I'm not really thinking about it too much. It's so early in the season. Right now I'm just trying to focus on getting better, improving and helping this defense get to where we need to be, get us to our goals this season."
Lotulelei's rookie contract is set to expire at the end of the season. The former 14th overall pick is playing the year on the fifth-year option teams can exercise with first-rounders. His hope is to remain in Carolina beyond 2017.
"Of course. I love it here," Lotulelei said. "I've made some friends here. The locker room is great. I love playing with this defense. The D-line room is great, the coaches are great. I'd love to come back, but at the end of the day it's a business, and whatever happens is what's going to happen."
The Panthers and defensive tackle Kawann Short took care of business earlier this offseason. Short, who Carolina selected with its second-round pick in 2013 after taking Lotulelei a round earlier, signed a lucrative five-year extension.
The money tied to Short, a productive pass rusher, could impact what's available for Lotulelei, who is more of a space-eating run stopper.
"Money is a big part of what we do, but at the same time you've got to go out there and earn it. Just trying to improve every day," Lotulelei said.
"KK fills up the stat sheets, makes a lot of great plays. I just try to play my role on this defense and help us be the best I can be. Whatever our defense needs – whatever they need me to do – I can go out there and do anything they ask of me. If they want me to go out there and rush the passer or collapse the pocket or collapse the run – whatever they need, that's what I'll do."