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Carolina Panthers

Yetur Gross-Matos is "ready to make the jump" 

Yetur Gross-Matos

CHARLOTTE — Yetur Gross-Matos will tell you he isn't one for an on-field celebration dance. You're more likely to catch him releasing a guttural yell on the back end of a third-down stop than busting a move.

The Panthers' defensive end says he's been that intense since he first started playing football in his youth. The passion clicked during childhood, when he stood over an opposing player after a tackle and called the surge of adrenaline "the greatest feeling I've ever felt."

"I've always been that type of player with that fierce mentality," Gross-Matos said. "I just want to dominate."

Gross-Matos said he's gearing up for more big moments in his third year at Carolina, looking to capitalize on the momentum he generated toward the end of last season.

Last year, the Penn State product finished the season with 18 solo tackles, 3.5 sacks, and five tackles for loss – all career highs – along with a pass deflection and forced fumble. He saw his first multi-sack game in week 15 at Buffalo, tallying 2.5 sacks against Josh Allen.

"I feel like I could be one of the better players in this league," Gross-Matos said, looking forward to the 2022 season. "I feel like I'm definitely ready to make the jump going into this season. I just have to focus on keeping myself on the field. I'll be able to produce when I'm out there."

Defensive coordinator Phil Snow would likely agree with Gross-Matos. Snow said this spring there was "no question" Gross-Matos needed to see the field more, though he would need to stay healthy first.

Gross-Matos missed four games in 2020 and three in 2021 as he's battled through various injuries during his time with Carolina. He's been sidelined with a concussion, an ankle injury and an illness since he was chosen in the second round of the 2022 draft.

He played in 14 games last year and started two of the season's last three games before being placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list for the last game at Tampa Bay.

"One of his biggest problems of not getting on the field in the last two years has been his health," Snow said. "That's my biggest concern with him. If he stays healthy and can practice every day and play every week, then I think his future is really bright here."

Snow is excited about what a healthy Gross-Matos could add to the Panthers' defense. He said Gross-Matos is a versatile option who has experience creating pressure both inside and outside along the defensive line.

Since he's a bigger player on the edge than the departed Haason Reddick, there's a hope he can add some stability to the run defense on early downs. So while he's got potential as a pass-rusher (particularly inside on third downs), he could help the defense as a whole even if he doesn't accumulate stats.

They've also explored the possibility of acquiring veteran defensive end Carlos Dunlap (which remains an option), but Gross-Matos is among a group of players, including Frankie Luvu and Marquis Haynes Sr., that they'll use as a bit of a committee.

"The more guys can do, the better we're going to play, and that's what I really like," Snow said. "We have about five or six players that can do a lot of different things for us, and Yetur's one of them."

With year three upcoming, the advice Gross-Matos said he would give to others has the potential to ring true to his own journey.

"Success isn't going to come overnight," Gross-Matos said. "I'm putting days together. One day, everything – a lot of hard work – will come to fruition, one way or another."

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