SPARTANBURG, S.C. – This time last year, wide receiver Corey Brown was in the fight of his life for a spot on the Panthers' 53-man roster.
This year, he's taking the same approach – even though in reality he's fighting for a starting spot.
"That's how I always feel. You can never be complacent," Brown said. "Any given day, all of this can be taken away from you, so I come out every day with a mindset that I have to be better than I was the previous day."
Brown clearly is better, evidenced by the fact that most of his reps at training camp this summer have been taken with the first team.
"Running with the ones right now, I'm happy," Brown said. "Now I'm going to keep working and keep trying to get better so I can stay there.
"That's a goal for everybody. That room right now is real competitive from top to bottom. There are five or six receivers who can do that job."
This time last year, Brown was battling to prove he deserved a job – any job – on the 53-man roster. Despite leading or tying for the lead in receptions at Ohio State for three consecutive seasons and proving to be a dangerous punt returner, Brown went undrafted in 2014.
He didn't go unnoticed, however, having had plenty of contact with Carolina before the draft. The Panthers, looking to rebuild the wide receiver position, made an impression on Brown, who signed hours after the draft.
"When it got towards the later rounds, I kind of didn't want to be drafted so I would be able to pick the best situation for myself rather than just going to somebody's camp to be a body," Brown said. "The Panthers had just let go of three receivers, so I knew I'd be able to come in here and have an open competition.
"I spoke with Coach (Ron) Rivera and Coach (Ricky) Proehl at my workouts and at the combine, and they told me, 'If you come in and show us you can play, you will play.' That's what made me want to come."
Brown took the opportunity and ran with it, gaining the coaches' attention with some eye-popping plays last offseason and gaining their trust with a show of consistency. He earned a roster spot and first became a factor as a punt returner before becoming one of the key reasons why the Panthers were able to turn their season around during the stretch. Carolina utilized his speed to keep defenses honest and spread them out, and it worked.
This season, Brown could be asked to do more of the same, but likely he'll be asked to do more.
"I don't mind going deep, especially if that's what's going to keep me here," Brown said. "This year I'm more open in the playbook - going across the middle and with drags, hitches, slants, comebacks. Last year I was more about going vertical, about clearing it out for everybody else. But I've worked with Coach Proehl on getting my route techniques down."
Last year, Brown used the fact that he wasn't drafted as motivation, but that's old news now. Instead, he's focusing his attention on writing new headlines.
"I'm just happy to be here. I'm blessed," Brown said. "At the end of the day, it's not about how you got here; it's about what you do when you're here."