Carolina Panthers

Next for Panthers’ Kawann Short after huge deal? ‘Work like I’m ... trying to earn one’

Fresh off a contract extension that puts him among the top five defensive tackles in the NFL, Kawann Short (99) says his attitude and work ethic haven’t changed.
Fresh off a contract extension that puts him among the top five defensive tackles in the NFL, Kawann Short (99) says his attitude and work ethic haven’t changed. jeason@charlotteobserver.com

After signing a super-sized contract extension in April, newly minted Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short took a short vacation.

It didn’t rival Cam Newton’s Caribbean birthday celebration last year – or even the Ryan Kalil-led getaway to Lake Toxaway this spring that produced the video spoofing Newton’s birthday video.

After a year of contract back-and-forths, Short headed as far south as he could go without leaving U.S. soil, spending a couple of days in Key West with his mother, 3-year-old daughter and one of his mom’s friends.

“It was nothing big,” Short said after Wednesday’s minicamp practice. “But it was fun just to get our minds away from everything.”

I don’t have to worry about what’s next. I just have to worry about coming out here and doing what I’ve been doing.

Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short on his recent contract extension

Negotiations on a new deal occupied a big chunk of Short’s mind last year after he and the Panthers failed to get a deal done before the start of the 2016 season. Short wanted to be paid among the game’s top defensive tackles, but it took general manager Dave Gettleman to approach Short’s asking price.

But a month after placing the franchise tag on Short, the two sides agreed on a five-year, $80.5 million extension that put Short among the top five highest-paid defensive tackles in terms of per-year average ($16.1 million) and money guaranteed at signing ($35 million).

Short said getting the deal done gave him peace of mind.

“I don’t have to worry about what’s next,” he said. “I just have to worry about coming out here and doing what I’ve been doing.”

Consistent effort

What Short does best is disrupt the passer. His 11 sacks during the Super Bowl season of 2015 were the most by a defensive tackle in team history and set the bar high for a player hoping to cash in with a mega-deal along the lines of the six-year, $103 million contract received by the Eagles’ Fletcher Cox last year.

When Short’s sack total fell to six last season, some wondered whether Short was worth spending big on.

Panthers defensive line coach Eric Washington didn’t wonder.

“His effort was consistent, his knowledge of what we were supposed to be doing (was solid) and he was a factor,” Washington said. “Even if he didn’t get the same production, he was a consistent factor.”

Short has played with a bit of a chip after he was passed over in the first round of the 2013 draft when he was leaving Purdue. Some scouts questioned Short’s effort, but Gettleman thought Short was the best interior pass-rusher in the draft and took him in the second round.

Now that he’s been rewarded with one of the richest contracts in franchise history, Short says his approach won’t change.

“I’ve still gotta work like I’m still trying to earn one,” he said. “That’s in the past now. I’m working like it’s another rookie year for me.”

Taking on a leadership role

Washington, the Panthers’ well-respected defensive line coach, says Short has taken on more of a leadership during meetings and practices since signing his contract two months ago.

“I’ve seen a guy that realizes to whom much is given, much is expected,” Washington said. “He knows the responsibility that goes along with how he was rewarded and he’s embraced that.”

Short says his ultimate goal is a Super Bowl ring after the Panthers fell short two seasons ago. Short also has a personal goal that goes beyond sacks and quarterback pressures.

“Just go out there and do you,” Short said. “You always have individual goals that you set for yourself. Just come out here and be one of the dominant defensive tackles in the league. That’s what I’ve got to work for.”

The Panthers will have a five-week hiatus after Thursday’s final minicamp session before they report to Spartanburg for training camp.

Short will host his second annual football camp in his hometown of East Chicago, and he hopes to expand his book drive charity to more Charlotte schools.

Short didn’t mention anything about another vacation. But he laughed Tuesday when describing his recent Key West trip.

“(It was) nothing extravagant like Cam or nothing like that,” he said. “Nah, it was very low-key, chill and just relax. ... It was a lot of walking, but it was just chill.”

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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