AL HAMNIK: This 'Short' story has best seller potential

2013-10-26T17:45:00Z 2013-10-28T23:06:17Z AL HAMNIK: This 'Short' story has best seller potentialAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
October 26, 2013 5:45 pm  • 

Kawann Short nailed it like a carpenter.

The Carolina Panthers' rookie defensive tackle approaches each new day, each practice, like a guy at the employment office applying for a job.

Clean shaven, new suit, cheery smile, Short is dressed  to impress. Figuratively.

"I'm pretty much doing my job, filling my role where they need me -- coming off the bench and giving the guys a spark," Short said. "I'm fine with that."

He took that same approach during his early days at E.C. Central, at Purdue, and now with the Panthers as a second-round draft pick.

Listen, absorb, execute. Do it well enough and you'll crack the starting lineup eventually.

"It's a whole other level," Short said of the talent surrounding him. "It's fast-paced, so you got to be quick and decisive. You can't hesitate."

These are exciting times in Charlotte, N.C. The Panthers are 4-3 after starting 0-2. Not since 2008 when they last made the playoffs have they been above .500.

Heading into this weekend, they had the league's No. 3 defense.

Carolina has not allowed a first-half touchdown this season and has led at halftime in all seven games.

"Our team chemistry is outstanding," Short said. "We all have one goal -- win and be that No. 1 defense. We have the heart and desire to help each other.

"When I first got to Purdue, it was like: 'Ah, he's a rook and walk on by.' But these guys have been very receptive."

There's no talk of Super Bowl, just yet, but if the season ended today, the Panthers would be in the tiebreaker mix with Detroit and Green Bay for the sixth and final NFC playoff spot.

OK, OK. Carolina's four wins are against teams with a combined 5-22 record and it'll be a huge jump from goldfish bowl to piranha tank with November games against Atlanta, San Francisco, New England and Miami.

In December are two critical meetings with NFC South leader New Orleans. We get that. You tip-toe across a mine field, not jitterbug.

And so the Panthers will take it one game at a time, a cliche older than Moses' sandals, but sensible.

"We can't accept being just good. We want to be better than that," coach Ron Rivera told the Panthers' website.

Kewann Short knows such an attitude is what separates pretenders and contenders in the NFL.

"That started the first day of camp. We wanted to be relevant once again," said the 6-foot-3, 305-pounder.

"All of us have to believe and that's what we're doing now."

The Panthers dropped eight of their first 10 games last season and quickly kissed their playoff hopes goodbye. It left them angry, embarrassed, and they made Rivera proud by winning five of their final six outings.

"At no point did I ever doubt these guys. I really thought it was just a matter of time," he said.

Could that time be now? The next several weeks will tell. This relevant thing feels pretty good, though, and has everyone fired up.

Short, included.

"When I retire, I want to be remembered with guys like Warren Sapp and Vince Wilfork -- big-name defensive players," he said.

That's why he was the 44th overall pick in the draft.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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