Carolina Panthers

What can Da'Norris Searcy be for Panthers? More than just a starter at safety

Carolina Panthers defensive back Da'Norris Searcy (21) wants to be a leader on the field for the team this fall and secure a starting spot at safety.
Carolina Panthers defensive back Da'Norris Searcy (21) wants to be a leader on the field for the team this fall and secure a starting spot at safety.

He wasn't the biggest name in the Carolina Panthers' group of free-agent additions this spring.

But after a few weeks on the field during the team's off-season workouts, it's clear: Panthers fans should pay attention to safety Da'Norris Searcy.

Searcy is the frontrunner to start alongside veteran Mike Adams this fall. He said he has admired Adams since he came into the league and used to play against him as a Tennessee Titan when Adams was in Indianapolis.

The reunion of the two, this time on the same side, seems to be going smoothly. And coach Ron Rivera has taken notice.

"I watch him and Mike together, and I'll tell you what, it's like two old heads who have been together for awhile," Rivera said this week.

"I do see the fluidness of his movement right now. The big part of this is getting comfortable with what we do and how we do it, and then the communication with the guys around you.

"Just watching him work with pretty much whoever has been back there with him, he's doing a really nice job."

Carolina Panthers defensive back Da'Norris Searcy (21) looks over to defensive back Mike Adams (29) during organized team activities. The two are gelling well in the defensive backfield, according to head coach Ron Rivera.

A seven-year veteran of the NFL, Searcy, 29, was drafted by Buffalo out of North Carolina in 2011. He spent the past three years in Tennessee, where he went from a starter to a depth player.

Searcy accepted that role at the time but now relishes the opportunity to be a more featured player in Carolina.

"New faces come in, so a lot of times they're going to want 'their guys' to come in and play," he said. "But at the end of the day, I didn't want to be a distraction. I wanted to be a team player and contribute as much as I could. Help out, and the main goal was to win.

"When my time was up, I was eager to move on and still compete and have the opportunity to play as a starter somewhere again. Because I still trusted and believed in myself. I came into a good opportunity, and I just have to keep performing and being productive."

Charlotte Observer's Joe Person and Jourdan Rodrigue offer their observations from the Carolina Panthers OTAs including discussions on the team's new offensive and defensive coordinators.

Searcy said he likes how the Panthers play their safeties and the versatility they demand from them. He's comfortable roaming the defensive backfield, but he said he can move into the box as needed, defend the run and blitz the quarterback, and even play nickel in a pinch.

"I mean, I'm not going to downplay my ability," he laughed. "Wherever they need me to line up, I'm going to line up and do the best I can. ... People in Carolina should know I'm very versatile; I can even line up and return punts. I even did it at 215 pounds (in college)."

This off-season, Searcy got leaner in order to get faster and more flexible.

"My wife put me on a diet plan," he said. "She's a trainer, former track runner. She introduced this meal plan so I cut back on the Coronas and started eating more, doing more meal prep. I trimmed down a lot. I came in at 203 pounds, and it looks different on film I can already see. ... Quicker, hips are more fluid.

"She stayed on me, even though I wanted to get away from it, eat a little snack here and there. I stayed disciplined and stayed on the regimen. It helped out a lot."

Carolina Panthers defensive back Da'Norris Searcy (21) got leaner this off-season thanks to a meal plan from his wife, a trainer and former UNC track and field athlete.

But Searcy knows he'll have to make more than a physical contribution to the team. He's very familiar with the leadership and ability of former Panthers veteran safety Kurt Coleman, cut by the team this spring.

"He's a respected leader and a proven vet," said Searcy. "He's a playmaker, in my eyes. I've watched a whole lot of him on film. So I know I have some big shoes to fill.

"Lucky for me, I'm also a proven veteran guy. So it'll be easy for me to step in and play."

Jourdan Rodrigue: 704-358-5071; @jourdanrodrigue