Carolina Panthers: Russell Okung keen to assume leadership role

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Russell Okung
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) Russell Okung /

New Carolina Panthers offensive tackle Russell Okung is keen to step up and be a locker room leader following a host of departures during the offseason.

The Carolina Panthers have parted ways with some influential figures during the offseason. Recently acquired offensive tackle Russell Okung has set his sights on filling the leadership void.

Legendary linebacker Luke Kuechly announced his shock retirement, quarterback Cam Newton was released, and veteran tight end Greg Olsen opted to join the Seattle Seahawks in free agency. This has left the Panthers without three of their most charismatic leaders in 2020.

Okung, who was part of the trade that sent right guard Trai Turner to the Los Angeles Chargers, knows that expectations off the field are going to be crucial to his success in Carolina and is eager to get going.

In his first conference call with media since the trade, Okung had this to say on leadership.

"“I’m excited. I can’t wait to see what we’re going to do this year, whenever that starts. I think they made a great decision going out to get me, and I’m happy with where I am.“I think you lead from the front. I know they’re putting a lot on my shoulders in terms of being ready, in terms of passing on all the things that I’ve been given in my tenure in the NFL. I’ll do just that.”"

The Pro Bowl blocker has not enjoyed the easiest of starts to life in Carolina due to the coronavirus pandemic. But he is putting confidence in the Panthers’ coaching staff to get them prepared during virtual OTAs so that they can be ready to go in training camp, whenever that may be.

"“I think it’s OK if we miss this time. I’m putting a lot of trust in our coaching staff, the players’ abilities to be prepared and ready for the demands of the game. I think it’s important to note the players I’ve talked to, they’re working their tail off to be as competitive as they can for the year.”"

Okung is also excited to link up once again with Panthers’ offensive line coach Pat Meyer. The pair worked together for three years at the Chargers and now find themselves on the same team once again in a different environment.

"“(Meyer is) a very eclectic dude. He’s probably one of the smartest football minds I’ve ever been around. Definitely one that I respect. He’s so diligent about his craft. I know he can’t wait to get back to work, just like me, so I’m looking forward to continuing to be together.”"

Related Story. Okung in ‘win-now’ mode following trade. light

Okung is heading into the final year of his current deal and will make $13 million in base salary in 2020. How he plays next season will go a long way to determining whether his stay in Carolina will be a short one.