CHARLOTTE — This unique offseason created a long waiting game for Troy Pride Jr.
The fourth-round cornerback was a childhood Panthers fan, growing up in Greer, S.C. He spent the offseason there, too, training and staying in shape as he started to learn his new team's systems.
But now Pride and the rest of Carolina's rookie class have reported to Bank of America Stadium, ready to embark on the first season of their pro careers. Finally.
"It's been basically hectic. It's been just figuring stuff out on the run — adapting. I think I had tweeted it a while ago, 'Hustle and adapt,' and that's what it is," Pride said.
The 2020 offseason has challenged everyone, but especially rookies. In a typical year, they would at least be familiar with their new surroundings and environment to start training camp. Instead, Pride and the rest of his class have had to navigate learning a new playbook from afar.
While that process varied from player to player, Pride said the rookies had to figure out how to be accountable in learning Xs and Os. That way, they won't be behind when full practices start in mid-August.
"I think it's been writing down what I need to write down, then taking that and making it applicable to what I do and how I learn," Pride said. "Sometimes, I get on the field to see route combinations and how I would play certain route combinations. Sometimes it's just watching film and seeing how this coverage would fare against this series or this drive against a team."
Pride may be a rookie, but he could create some competition at cornerback if he performs well. The Panthers signed cornerback Eli Apple in May and the coaches like the fifth-year veteran's size and speed. But there is still opportunity opposite 2018 second-round pick Donte Jackson.
"I mean, I'm a competitive person from jump. So I don't necessarily look at position ranks because if I did that, I would've been bogged down from little league," Pride said. "I just go out there, and I want to do everything in my power to prove I'm the best out there. If that gets me a starting position, that's fine. If that puts me in a different position, that's fine. But what I'm going to always do is compete."
Pride added that it remains critical for him to hone in on the details of the defensive scheme.
"That's the jump that a lot of guys have to make — understanding certain routes and what certain guys are going to try to do to you with different formations," he said. "If you can get your mastery of that knowledge quicker, then I think that is what propels individuals forward."
Pride will experience an adjustment period like all rookies, especially when it comes to game speed. But without a preseason schedule, the opportunities to impress will be limited to meetings and the practice field.
"Because I haven't had any preseason games before, I wouldn't know what they would do for me or what they wouldn't," Pride said. "But I think that I'm going to be ready when my name is called."
This has been the most extended offseason the vast majority of NFL players have ever experienced. Now, as it comes to an end, Pride is ecstatic to begin the process of finally feeling like an NFL player — even though Carolina drafted him months ago. He sees his present task as making the best of this unique situation.
"Not just finger-pointing, not just sitting there and saying, 'Oh shoot, we don't have this, we weren't able to do that,'" Pride said. "What I'm saying is, let's just make this difficult time fun."
View photos of Carolina's rookie class reporting to Bank of America Stadium.