CHARLOTTE – Dontari Poe is a believer in the idea that football players can significantly grow their games between their first and second years.
The hulking defensive tackle recorded what proved to be a career-high tackle total his second season at the University of Memphis, then he did the same his second season with the Chiefs while going from no sacks as a rookie to 4.5.
Now Poe is preparing for his second season with the Panthers after a relatively quiet 2018.
"There's always growth between the first year somewhere and the second year," Poe said. "I'm excited about it."
First and foremost, Poe believes in second chances because he believes in himself.
"You can't not be excited about that. It's three dudes that are proven," Poe said. "We're going to go out there, we're going to work and we're going to get it done."
Poe's position isn't one dependent on racking up stats, but still the two-time Pro Bowler recorded just one sack for Carolina last season – his lowest total other than his rookie year – and had a career-low 17 tackles based on press box stats. Neither Poe nor the Panthers defense as a whole had the type of season it expected.
"If you're on this team and you're not hungry, it's a problem," Poe said.
The two Pro Bowl campaigns of Poe's career came in a 3-4 defense with the Chiefs in 2013 and 2014, and the Panthers are transitioning this offseason to a hybrid look on defense that incorporates 3-4 concepts.
When asked if a 3-4 look fits him, Poe said, "football fits me," but he didn't deny his excitement about the possibility of lining up at the nose with Short and the recently acquired McCoy flanking him.
"His work speaks for itself," Poe said of McCoy, who recorded six or more sacks each of his last six seasons with the Buccaneers. "He's a dog; the stats show it. I'm happy to have him here."
The Panthers' offseason workout program ends Thursday, but Poe will go right to work at the beginning of the "break." He'll be in his native Memphis for the final day of his second annual "Entrepreneur In Training" camp on Friday, then he'll hold his fourth annual football camp the next day.
"It's going to be real fun, real good for the kids," Poe said. "They love it."
While Poe is invested in encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit in students in hopes of making a better life for them, Poe began his final minicamp week by joining Julius Peppers in delivering donations to a couple of Charlotte charitable organizations courtesy of the Panthers' Player Impact Committee. Poe and the freshly retired Peppers were a part of a five-player committee that orchestrated the effort.
"Very nice, but it can never be too much," Poe said. "The people that really need it – which is a lot of people – you can never do too much for them. And it doesn't have to be money; just going to see them, talk to them, give them a bright word – that's enough sometimes."
Poe plans to split his time leading up to training camp between Memphis – where he'll work out at his alma mater – and Phoenix, where he'll work out with a trainer.
Then, in about six weeks, he'll return for training camp to continue building toward his second season with the Panthers.
"It's going to be fun," he said.
View photos from Wednesday's practice session.