CHARLOTTE – Trai Turner didn't say anything about it publicly, but being on the final year of his rookie deal, his contract situation was something he thought about throughout the spring.
"It was always in the back of my mind," Turner said. "But I was confident in my representation, confident in how the organization felt about me. I thought something would happen, and I'm just glad we were able to get it done."
On Friday, just four days before the Panthers report to Wofford College for training camp, Turner flew in from his home in New Orleans and walked into Bank of America Stadium to sign a four-year contract extension. With it, the 24-year-old became one of the highest-paid guards in the NFL.
"It's a blessed feeling," Turner said. "I've been ecstatic since yesterday. We put all this work behind us, and now it's time to get back to the field. The ink is dry and I'm excited."
Turner's representation had been engaged in constructive contract talks with the Panthers before general manager Dave Gettleman was relieved of his duties. And one day after Marty Hurney stepped in as interim GM, Turner was tweeting to the world that he had agreed to an extension.
Clearly, the former third-round pick from LSU was a top priority.
"It just shows how they feel about me and it makes me feel honored, to be honest," Turner said. "I'm going to go out on the field and continue to keep giving it my all."
A two-time Pro Bowler already, Turner has established himself as one of the best interior linemen in the NFL, and his contract reflects that.
The Panthers, more than most teams, place high value on the right guard position, and Turner, with his athleticism and technique in pass protection and his strength as a downhill run blocker, is the perfect guy for the job.
"In our scheme, your right guard has to be one of your better pass-blocking offensive linemen," head coach Ron Rivera explained. "For the most part, offenses are right-handed, so defenses set their three-technique – their best pass rusher – against your right guard. So he's the guy that is typically going to have to do a lot of one-on-one blocking, and he's rarely going to get any double-team help. And because of all that, you need a guy who is adept at pass protection in one-on-one."
Turner knows his role. He knows how important he is to Carolina's future.
And he knows what's next on the agenda.
"We've got to win a Super Bowl," Turner said. "A few of them I hope."