Carolina Panthers legend praises Shaq Thompson’s evolution
By Dean Jones
Carolina Panthers legend Luke Kuechly has praised the evolution of former teammate Shaq Thompson into a prominent leadership role.
Although Shaq Thompson isn’t actively participating in training camp as he recovers from minor knee surgery, the veteran is still making his presence felt across the Carolina Panthers. The former first-round selection has evolved into a leadership role over the last two years, which was forced upon the player after Thomas Davis and Greg Olsen departed, Cam Newton was released, and Luke Kuechly retired to preserve his long-term health.
Thompson took time to adjust to his newfound status within the Panthers locker room. The 2020 season was an indifferent one without the security blanket of Kuechly alongside him on defense, but the Washington product deserves credit for putting it all together last time around en route to some lofty numbers.
Matt Rhule is clearly leaning on Thompson heavily as part of his player-centered approach. A different mentality than adopted previously, but something that could benefit the organization if everyone remains on the same page.
There was an immediate statement from Thompson upon arriving at Wofford College for camp. He took it upon himself to offer newly-acquired quarterback Baker Mayfield a ride to Spartanburg, which saw two figures expected to become leaders arrive first and with purpose.
It might be small, but things like this matter. They also have the potential to rub off positively on other roster members.
Carolina Panthers legend Luke Kuechly praises Shaq Thompson’s growth
When recently discussing Thompson’s evolution into a locker room leader, Kuechly had nothing but praise for the man now following in his footsteps, highlighting his love for the game and how well he’s coped with a difficult transition for many.
"“There’s such a process of being a player, you’re the young guy, you’re a young vet, you sign a deal, and you’re like I’m going to be here and now I’m the older guy and gets to teach the young guys. He’s done a good job with that. I just think he loves football. I think certain guys just pick it up really naturally. He’s one of those guys that conceptually makes sense to him. He can see the game really well.”"
Hopefully, there will be no setbacks in Thompson’s recovery and he can take the field in Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns. With so much on the line for Carolina in 2022, they can ill afford to be without one of their most influential players on and off the field during the early stages of the campaign.
Thompson is taking it all in throughout training camp, listening intently during meetings and also lending his voice from a mini-coaching capacity to further enhance his influence. Plenty of young figures within the franchise are now looking toward the veteran for inspiration, which is a responsibility he’s taking incredibly seriously.
"“It’s understanding work ethic, how to be accountable. Understanding nobody’s bigger than the team. We’re all here for the same reason, we all have the same goals.”"
With some significant financial implications to come where Thompson is concerned in 2023, the stakes could not be higher. And who knows, if the production matches the leadership potential then a new deal next year might not be that far-fetched.