D.J. Moore walked out to the practice field outside of Bank of America Stadium on Friday morning and when his cleats hit the grass, he was overcome by the fear that he'd suddenly forgotten everything he has learned in the past few weeks about how to be a Carolina Panthers wide receiver.
But second-year practice squad receiver and Charlotte native Austin Duke learned the ropes last season, and took it upon himself to calm Moore down a little.
"He helped me. ... He was like, 'Man, just calm down. You got it," Moore said.
Moore's perspective about his opportunity, despite his status as the Panthers' 2018 first-round draft pick, also helps keep the jitters away.
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"I just look at the bright side, that I get to go out there and have fun playing football," he said. "I just go out there and have fun, it's the main reason that I really love doing this."
Moore also seems like a fairly laid-back, soft-spoken young man. That juxtaposes with the idea that Moore is the "second coming" of former Panthers great Steve Smith Sr., known as much for his verbal dexterity as his physical gifts.
But Moore can certainly see some on-field comparisons between himself and Smith Sr.
"His hunger for the game," he said. "He doesn't really go down after one person tries to tackle him. That's something that we have in common. And his job to be the best player on the field at all times."
Meanwhile, quarterback Cam Newton joked on Instagram after Moore's shy arrival to the organization that he would have to help the rookie "get his swag right."
Moore is open to that — to an extent. He said he likes to be under the radar. Newton, of course, sends social media into a frenzy over his snappy and often custom attire at postgame press conferences and at high-fashion events such as the Met Gala, which he attended over the weekend.
"Yeah they're going to have to show me what they're talking about," he laughed. "But I've seen Cam, his style, and I don't know if I want to go that high on the swag-meter. But I'll get some pointers."
Newton is thrilled to have Moore in Carolina, even texting head coach Ron Rivera “thank you” after Moore was drafted in April.
He has the potential to be an immediate weapon for Newton in a rebuilt receivers room that appears to contain more complementary talent than it has in years.
General manager Marty Hurney added Torrey Smith, a veteran presence with the juice to stretch the field, and slot/third down specialist Jarius Wright, a disciple of new offensive coordinator Norv Turner's offense. Deep threat Damiere Byrd will be healthy this spring and Devin Funchess is in a "prove it" year as the "X" receiver. On paper, each of these players adds a layer to the offense that makes it more difficult to defend.
“I do think that's what the intent was, you don't want any two guys alike,” said head coach Ron Rivera after the afternoon session of Friday's rookie minicamp. “You do want to have some variety and you want position flexibility, guys who can play the Z, the X and the F for us. I think that's been done. We've got a good mix in that room."
The fact that Moore can line up inside or outside means he is about as plug-and-play as rookies come, especially in a receivers room that wants players to fit with each other like pieces of a puzzle.
But Rivera says it's more than physical ability with Moore.
“He's a very smart young man,” said Rivera. :Very bright. ...
“He picked things up very quickly. We moved him around to different spots, different positions, and he seemed to handle those things very well. He's a very quiet, confident young man. He's a competitive guy, though. When you see him make a mistake, you can see that he wants to correct those things and makes sure he gets those things right. We're very pleased with what we're getting from him.”
An early impression
Moore caught caught passes from every receiver position on Friday morning as the Panthers went through their first installation period with the rookies and tryout players.
He said he was only surprised by a couple of snaps, when offensive coordinator Norv Turner had him run jet sweeps, but otherwise felt smooth. It won't be a surprise to see that this fall using Moore, however, because of how much value the Panthers place on his ability to run through contact.
And in Moore's mind, the more the Panthers give him to do, the better.
“(My strength is) just being able to move around, learn the playbook and be versatile for the team,” he said. “Just being able to move around and be a chess piece out there.”
Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue