Tom Sorensen

Mario Addison’s deal with Panthers suggests a new role ... but not one he wants most

Carolina Panthers defensive end Mario Addison (97) has a big deal and potentially a new role that expands his duties in the defense. But about that offensive dream ...
Carolina Panthers defensive end Mario Addison (97) has a big deal and potentially a new role that expands his duties in the defense. But about that offensive dream ... dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

I like to go to a certain restaurant after Carolina Panthers home games, and sometimes see Carolina defensive end Mario Addison there.

Nothing about him suggests he has a job or status so many crave. Addison is quiet and funny, and after one game he and his brother and friends each pulled up on a Segway. They didn’t pull up to the front door. They pulled up to a table. The restaurant was almost empty.

“You want to try it?” he asked.

“Um, nah. But thanks,” I said.

The machine looked undersized. That was the criticism of Addison, who is 6-3 and 260 pounds, when he left Troy State. Undrafted, he played during his first two seasons for Chicago, Washington and Indianapolis.

The Panthers added him in his second season, 2012, and this week signed him to the career contract for which he’s waited – three years and $22.5 million. Good move by his employer.

Addison, who turns 30 in September, is a much better player than he was when the Panthers discovered him. Last season was his best. He led Carolina with a career high 9.5 sacks. He also had a career high 27 tackles.

Addison is like a closer in baseball, somebody with a 98-mile-an-hour fastball you bring in to shut the opponent down. He often sits on first and second down. Passing downs are his downs. The idea is that if he’s on the field for first and second down, the absence of bulk will wear him down.

But Addison’s new contract suggests a larger role.

A role I hoped he’d play is running back. I’m serious. When a team gets near the goal line, it sometimes brings in a defender and sticks him at tight end. Addison doesn’t want to be a tight end. He wants to run. The man can move with a football in his hands.

How do I know?

He told me. Also, he has evidence.

As a kid on a Peewee team in Birmingham, Ala., he played running back. In high school, he played quarterback.

What was his completion percentage?

Addison might not have had one. When he saw an opening, he took off. He saw a lot of openings.

Addison still runs. He runs past blockers and runs down quarterbacks, and will continue to.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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