SPARTANBURG, S.C. – When guard Trai Turner takes the podium, you see the friendly face of a young player eager to have fun with his teammates at training camp.
"We're just excited to get out there for our first practice today. It's been a long offseason," Turner said. "As a team, I want us to keep working hard, I want us to jell, I want us to have fun. That's a key thing for us."
But it's not all fun and games for Turner, especially when the pads come on. The combat in the trenches is not for the faint of heart. And it is anything but friendly.
"It's fun. I enjoy it," Turner said. "I guess you could say I'm starting to learn the ropes a little bit more so I kind of know what to expect more than what I did previously. But I still have a lot of more room to grow."
That's a scary thought for a 23-year-old coming off a Pro Bowl season.
Last year, Turner turned heads with his sheer power at the point of attack and his consistency finishing blocks.
"Just being at the peak of my position – I want to be one of the best guards in the NFL," Turner said. "That's my personal goal."
He's bound to get better thanks to high-quality defensive tackles he'll face throughout training camp.
In addition to Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei, veteran Paul Soliai and first-round pick Vernon Butler were added this offseason.
Let the battles begin.
"I know two things for sure," Turner said. "I can't wait to kick some butt. And I can't wait to get better with those guys. They're going to make me better."