Ed Dickson wasted no time introducing himself to Carolina Panthers fans – not to mention new free safety Thomas DeCoud.
Dickson, the former Baltimore Ravens tight end who joined the Panthers during the offseason, drew some oohs-and-ahhs during Friday’s Fan Fest when he caught a Cam Newton pass across the middle and put DeCoud on the ground with a forearm shiver.
Was Dickson trying to impress his new coaches and teammates with an aggressive play in his first preseason practice?
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“I didn’t try to do that,” Dickson said Saturday, laughing. “I just tried to protect myself, and then I forced my arm out a little bit. He knows that. I went back and told him, ‘Man, I didn’t try to do that.’ I never try to do my teammates like that. You’ve got to protect yourself a little bit.”
Dickson said DeCoud was understanding.
“He said he kind of sold it, kind of acted a little bit,” Dickson said. “We went back and forth joking about it a little bit.”
But Dickson turned serious when discussing his new team and his prospects for winning the No. 2 spot behind Greg Olsen. Dickson is competing with four other players: Mike McNeill, Brandon Williams, Richie Brockel and D.C. Jefferson.
It was feast or famine for Panthers’ tight ends last year. Olsen caught 73 passes for 816 yards to finish as the team’s leading receiver. Only one other tight end had a reception: Brockel, listed as a fullback and tight end, caught one pass for 12 yards.
But Dickson said he was not scared off by the lack of production by the team’s tight ends other than Olsen.
“I didn’t really have to be sold on it. I watched the Panthers from where I was, and I was a fan of the Panthers. Why not?” he said. “Seeing the great things Cam (Newton) had done here and other guys, to come in and play with a guy like Greg Olsen, it was kind of an easy decision.”
The Panthers brought in McNeill, the former St. Louis tight end, to replace Ben Hartsock, a blocking specialist throughout his 10-year career who remains unsigned.
They signed Dickson to a 1-year deal worth the veteran minimum of $795,000 to give Newton another receiving target at the position.
“We’ve been looking for that complement to Greg,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “Historically, we’ve had a big, physical (No. 2) tight end. We have one of those. We don’t have a complement to Greg, and this is what Ed could probably do for us.”
The Panthers hope Dickson returns to his form from 2011, when he pulled down 54 passes for 528 yards and five touchdowns for the Ravens.
Dickson, 27, Baltimore’s third-round draft pick out of Oregon in 2010, combined for 46 receptions in his final two seasons with the Ravens. He struggled with dropped passes and began to question himself.
“The last few years were a little bit down for myself confidence-wise and stuff like that. But I’m still that player,” Dickson said during his first day at Wofford. “You don’t have (54) catches in this league on accident.”
Dickson said he talked with Detroit, Houston and a couple of other teams during free agency but was excited about the chance to play with Newton in Charlotte.
Dickson, 6-4 and 255 pounds, caught nearly everything thrown his way and showed off good speed and separation during organized team activities. He’s eager to begin working with Newton, who missed all but the final practice of OTAs while he recovered from offseason ankle surgery.
Dickson acknowledged the importance of Newton developing timing with the new group of receivers and tight ends but said the players aren’t stressed about it.
“It comes with every day in camp, every single rep in practice. That’s why we’re here,” Dickson said. “The name of the game is work, and we’re going to put the work in, put the time in, and not overlook anything.”