CHARLOTTE – Since they joined the Panthers as unrestricted free agents this offseason, you rarely hear about Jerricho Cotchery without mention of Jason Avant, and vice-versa.
Together, they represent the veteran leadership tasked with setting the tone for a remodeled receiving corps.
Cotchery and Avant – both 31 years old – understand their roles.
"Me and Cotch can help mold the young guys into good players and help them with their craft," Avant said.
With 18 years of combined NFL experience, Cotchery and Avant are ideal role models for the inexperienced Panthers wide receivers. Both have established themselves on the field, and both come to Carolina with glowing reputations as unselfish players.
"Jerricho and Jason are two veteran guys that have played in a lot of big games, and they've really shown that to the young guys with their work ethic and professionalism," head coach Ron Rivera said.
These veterans don't intend to lean on their reputations alone.
Organized team activities have given Cotchery and Avant their first chance to put their work ethic on display.
"The first thing the young guys want to see is if you work," Avant explained. "Once you go out and do the right things, it gives you a voice to speak. A lot of times people speak first and their actions don't match their words. People will lose respect rather than gain it. So we are trying to lead by example."
When asked to describe the current mood of the wide receiver room, Cotchery replied, "workmanlike."
"Don't think you've arrived to a certain point where you can't grow," Cotchery said. "I want to develop as a player."
Cotchery and Avant aren't just in Carolina to look after younger receivers. They may have been signed with that capability in mind, but first and foremost, they are here to produce.
"We'll do whatever we can to help this group get better," Cotchery said. "But at the same time, we were brought here to make plays and that's what we are going to try to do."
And as for the analysts dissecting Carolina's overhauled receiving corps, Cotchery is taking a veteran approach to the doubters.
"We have work to do. You can't worry about what is being said on the outside," Cotchery said. "You have to put forth the work each and every day to help this team win. If we focus on that, we'll be able to do what's necessary to help accomplish that."