Carolina Panthers No. 4: Shaq Thompson embracing leadership
Shaq Thompson has made no secret of his intentions to step up as a defensive leader for the Carolina Panthers in 2020. The locker room needs players to stand up and be counted after some influential figures left the organization this offseason, and the outside linebacker is keen to be more vocal next season.
This is something that Thompson hasn’t really needed to do thanks to others who were more experienced and respected within the locker room. With those individuals no longer on the team, the former first-round pick wants to use the exceptional example left by Luke Kuechly.
"“Luke wasn’t a rah-rah guy, but when he needed to speak up, his presence was felt. That’s kind of how I’ve followed in the same way behind him. I’m not (Thomas Davis), I’m not Luke — I’m Shaq. So he told me to go out there and be Shaq. Play like Shaq. So that’s what I’m going to do — I’m going to go play like Shaq. “Just going off experience, I’ve told them things are going to happen fast. Just the nature of the game, how the transition happens from college to the NFL, it just happens fast. But as long as you know the game and understand your technique and what you’re supposed to do, your assignments and stuff like that, then it’ll start slowing down. These guys are smart. All these rookies, they’re doing a great job just buying in and listening to the vets. They’re going to be tremendous out there come Week 1.”"
There is nothing to suggest that Thompson is not more than ready for such a responsibility. He has five years of solid experience under his belt, which is considerably more than most on this young and hungry defense in Carolina.
The 2020 season is a big one for Thompson. He is set for a considerable pay rise from $4 million to $10.81 million next year and he will need to show the Panthers’ coaching staff that his play warrants such a steep financial commitment with so much uncertainty over the 2021 salary cap.