Panther Paw Prints: Winning Culture Edition

USA TODAY Sports

I've got a fresh batch of Paw Prints for you.

Some of the links were discussed late last week but I've instead pulled some quotes we did not discuss.

Leading off we have two free agents that know what it takes to win a SB and they talk about developing a winning culture:

Chase Blackburn, Domenik Hixon bring Super Bowl pedigree to Carolina Panthers | Carolina Panthers | Rock Hill Herald Online
"When it came down to the last two minutes, having the ball and needed a score (or) needed a stop, we felt like we were going to get that," Hixon said. "Just that culture to win. It takes time to build. It doesn’t just happen overnight. And I see that being the thing here, ending last year and hopefully getting a great start to this year. Just keep it rolling, and get that winning culture."

We've identified some key position battles for the upcoming Panthers Training Camp on CSR but here is one I overlooked:

Five Carolina Panthers Position Battles to Watch | NFL Football | The State

No. 2 tight end – Ben Hartsock showed this spring he can do more than block. The X-factor could be Brandon Williams, the former Oregon TE and small-college basketball player who was out for mini-camp following arthroscopic knee surgery.

I'm not sure how a guy that sat out mini-camp is a threat to a 10 yr vet like Hartsock. The Panthers #2 TE in a 2-TE set has to first and foremost be a good blocker which Hartsock is.

For those that think the Panthers are weak at WR Steve Smith disagrees and he is not one to sugar coat it:

The Charlotte Post - Smith’s eager to see Panthers develop
"You can tell he’s really thirsty and wants that opportunity," Smith said of Ginn. ‘’He’s acting like ‘Hey I want to win somebody’s job.’ And there are other guys like, ‘I’m not going to let you win this job.’" Smith said it all should make for an interesting training camp when the Panthers report to Spartanburg, S.C. on July 25. "There is an open competition at the receiver and (defensive back) spots,’’ Smith said. "One thing I’m going to do this summer is sit back and watch those 1-on-1 drills because they’re going to be intense. It should be cool to watch."

Rivera plans to let Smith do plenty of watching in order to reduce his risk and keep him fresh for the season kick off.

Smith also weighed in QB Cam Newton being a team captain. Smith gives his usual candid response, at least till the end:

Is Cam Newton captain-ready? Steve Smith weighs in - NFL.com
"As a former captain, right now, as a captain last year, I can't say if he's a captain or not," Smith said, "because captains are picked by their peers. It is voted by the players before the season starts, so whether I believe he should be a captain or not, it's really not up to me." Smith went on: "It's voted on by the players, and we have 53 guys that vote.

So those 53 votes count and there's a lot of guys who get votes. And so, I know Cam got votes last year, but he didn't get enough votes, so it's not about whether one person believes he should or shouldn't -- it takes a whole team that votes on that, so it's really not up to one person to make that decision." NFL Network's Andrew Siciliano cut in, saying, "I could ask you to reveal your vote, you know." Smith replied: "To be honest, I didn't vote for myself, OK?"

Steve Smith can be coy after all. Yes he is going to be good for Panther radio.

Back on the WR position, those that attend TC as I did last year can see first hand why Brandon LaFell is the unquestioned #2 WR. This explains why LaFell has continued to improve every season:

Panthers put wraps on successful offseason
"You want to give your body a couple of days off, but you've still got to prepare every day like we're still doing offseason workouts," LaFell said. "I'll work out once or twice a day to get prepared for training camp and stay in the playbook. You're off, but at the same time you're still working."

This is the work ethic of a professional and we will see it on display in Spartanburg.

If not WR, then certainly you think the secondary is the weakest position grouping right? Charles Godfrey doesn't think so:

Panthers Notebook: Armanti Edwards impresses throughout minicamp | CharlotteObserver.com
"I’ve never been a part of a secondary here with the Panthers like I’ve seen now and like I’m a part of now," Godfrey said. "When I say that, I’m saying as far as us making plays on the ball, breaking on the ball, challenging receivers, getting close, making interceptions at this time, as far as OTAs. That’s a good sign."

They have the help up front, now they just need to make plays on the ball.

More good news: Jon Beason is finally healthy:

Minicamp notes: Jon Beason displays energy, quickness | CharlotteObserver.com
"They passed him on the physical, so I assume he’s 100 percent. He moved around like it. He made some plays," Rivera said. "You really see that energy coming back. You see that quickness." "Jon works so hard at everything. It really didn’t surprise me that he’d be ready to go," Rivera said. "And I’m glad to see him out there. I think he’s going to help us, just his presence and who he is as a football player."

If Beason is half the leader I've thought he was all these years then he will simply excel at whatever position he ends up at and not worry about playing the middle. That is my honest hope anyway.

One of my favorite pieces this past week is this one our two new DTs becoming best buds:

Opposites building chemistry in Carolina - NFC South Blog - ESPN
"It’s funny to watch because, when you watch Kawann, there’s a little bit more of this flipping the hips and kind of slithering his way around," coach Ron Rivera said. "To me, that’s very typical of Purdue defensive linemen. I’ve been around some of them, most notably Shaun Phillips that I had in San Diego, and I see a lot of those traits. A lot of the hand-to-hand combat."

Then, there’s Lotulelei. "When you watch Star, you see a lot of athleticism and power," Rivera said. "He’s a very powerful player. They do complement each other because when you put those two in there, you’ve got a little bit more of a fluid-type guy versus more of a power-type guy. I think those guys can be a very good tandem for us. I most certainly would not mind seeing them in there together at the same time. That doesn’t worry me at all."

Seems with all this talk of Monsters Inc. we might need a nickname for this duo at some point. I'm with Rivera in that I'm excited to see them on the field together.

I know you've read about Ted Ginn's speed and the good impressions he made at mini camp. Along those lines I found this quote from Ginn about his time in San Fran a bit curious:

Panthers' Ted Ginn Jr. eager to prove he can still contribute as wide receiver in the NFL | Fox News
But he still can't pinpoint why he never really got much of a shot on offense. "You kind of get caught up in the politics a little bit, that side of the game," Ginn said. "You just have to roll with the punches and keep your name clean and your name right. He's eager for a fresh start. "I want to get back on track," Ginn said. "Last year was a tough season. We went to the Super Bowl. But individually, I didn't feel like I got the proper reps I was supposed to.

I'm might be taking this out of context but it sounds like he felt entitled to more reps. Maybe that is what he was told when the 49ers were courting him as a FA. My guess is they didn't want to risk injury to their primary returner or it could just be the whole 'bad hands' thing. It certainly wasn't because of a deep WR corps in San Fran.

We've already posted on Big Cat getting his name on the Charlotte 49er Stadium. Here's another take on that:

Carolina Panthers Owner Jerry Richardson Raises Eyebrows with $10 Million Donation | Panthers 101 | Sports Media 101
In fairness to Richardson, he is entitled to seek public money to help foot the bill for stadium upgrades. This is simply the way stadiums are financed in today's NFL. He's not the first owner to shake down taxpayers, and he won't be the last. While his generous donation to UNC-Charlotte might be worthy of a scowl, his intentions cannot be deemed to be anything but pure and wholehearted.

It's unpleasant to see the man tenderly known as the "Big Cat" in the crosshairs of the same people who once worshipped him for bringing pro football to the Carolinas. Jerry Richardson is not a bad person; he's a good person with an image problem. He's invested in the Panthers and the city of Charlotte, and now he needs to invest in himself. Hopefully, Jerry's next $10 million check is addressed to a public relations firm that can help him re-connect with the community and restore a positive public perception.

Though I might disagree JR has a bad image since I am biased I doubt JR cares about his public image at this point. After all, winning cures all ills.

Wrapping up this edition we have LB Luke Kuechly talking about LB James Anderson being one of his mentors during his rookie season. Apparently the Bears hope Anderson does the same in Chicago:

Linebacker James Anderson comes with a teacher feature for Bears rookies - Chicago Sun-Times
(Kuechly)‘‘When I got in there, I really didn’t know what was going on,’’ he said. ‘‘I had to learn a lot of new stuff, and [Anderson] was always there. He was very helpful from the start, helping me out, teaching me how to get plays set up, how to do things, how to conduct yourself.’’

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