Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers’ Mario Addison on solid ground after years of drifting

After a career of bouncing among teams, Carolina Panthers defensive end Mario Addison secured a two-year extension with the Panthers in June, and a well-earned vacation.

In his first media session of the preseason, Addison told stories of his trip to Puerto Rico – where he fell off his jet ski far out at sea.

“I’ve never been so scared in my life,” Addison said. “I swallowed so much seawater I didn’t even want to play no more. I don’t know how to swim, so without the life vest I would’ve died, y’all.

“Thank God it brought me back.”

For the first time in three seasons, Addison won’t have to deal with the uncertainty of wondering whether he can stick in the NFL.

“It was always in the back of my head,” Addison said. “I wondered what (teams) felt about me.”

Undrafted out of Troy in 2011, Addison went from the active roster and practice squads of the Bears, Colts and Redskins for the next 16 months. He appeared in 15 games in his first two seasons and registered nine tackles in his limited playing time.

The Panthers signed him from the Redskins’ practice squad in December 2012, but it wasn’t until the next season that Addison played a significant role.

Addison played in all 16 games and started two while Charles Johnson was out with a knee injury. He had 2 1/2 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, and he was also tied for the team lead with 10 special teams tackles. For his efforts, the Panthers rewarded him with an extension.

“It’s great,” Addison said. “I’ve bounced around a bit at the beginning of my career, and I know I had the talent to be (a defensive) end, and I know I was good at special teams. But for the Panthers to extend me it’s just showing they have faith in me.”

At 6-foot-2 and 255 pounds, Addison is slightly undersized for defensive end, but his speed – he ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash – has allowed him to make an impact on special teams, where he plays on both sides of the kick and punt return teams.

More importantly, Addison became the clear-cut primary backup at defensive end last season behind Pro Bowler Greg Hardy and Johnson, the team’s highest-paid player. With Frank Alexander suspended four games for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy and any potential punishment for Hardy’s guilty verdict in a domestic violence case, he may play a larger role this season.

“On the defensive side he brings a good changeup as far as what Charles does and what Greg Hardy does,” coach Ron Rivera said. “He’s a little more explosive off the ball. He does a good job of bending the corner, and at the same time he can play some of the other ‘defensive end’ positions that we do in terms of wide alignments and tight alignments.”

In Addison’s mind, though, not much has changed. Even now that he’s consistently earning playing time and has more money to spend, his attitude is the same as when he was bouncing among teams’ practice squads.

“I’m always hungry,” he said. “No matter what my role is, I’m gonna be hungry.”