CHARLOTTE -- Not much that's happened in the last year for Dwayne Jarrett was good.
That doesn't mean it's not helping
The Carolina Panthers' second-year wide receiver talked Thursday for the first time since his drunk-driving arrest, and the topics ranged from what he's gained from that to his disappointing rookie year.
Jarrett referred to his March arrest for driving while impaired as "a learning experience." He wouldn't say too much more about the particulars of the case -- he's due back in court on June 23 -- but he's clearly trying to avoid it as a topic.
"You go through and things happen," Jarrett said. "As long as you keep your head up and keep God in your prayers and not get too down on yourself, that is what I've been doing. I've had the great support of my teammates and my family.
"It is a thing in the past and I'm looking forward to this coming season."
If only it were that simple.
Jarrett seemed to vaguely acknowledge that he's made his future more difficult by his own hand, but the reality is piling an arrest on top of a horrible rookie year didn't help him win points with the coaches he's trying to impress.
"You always have pressure," Jarrett said. "Something like that adds on to the pressure that you already have. I'm a strong person and I'm competitive and something like that is not going to hold me down.
"That's like the chip on my shoulder. I have something to prove. I keep that in my back pocket. But it doesn't affect me. All I can do is work hard, try to get the team better by making plays and doing what I have to do and hold myself accountable."
Drafted in the second round, the hope was the 6-foot-4, 219-pound Jarrett would provide the perfect physical complement to Steve Smith. That never materialized, as Jarrett caught just six passes. That's hardly what they were expecting after he caught 41 touchdowns in three seasons at Southern Cal.
Of course, that he stayed in school just three years was much of his problem, as it's clear the 21-year-old wasn't ready for the mental or physical demands of the NFL.
Coach John Fox didn't talk to reporters Thursday, but general manager Marty Hurney said he thinks Jarrett's handling his spring appropriately.
"He just looks more comfortable out there; the year's helped him," Hurney said. "He's approaching things the right way, working hard, doing things well in practice.
"He's handled (the arrest) the right way. Certainly he apologized for what he did, and he's trying to do things the right way now."
Jarrett smiled often through his interview, although either of the main lines of questioning -- his arrest and poor play -- were as uncomfortable as the sweltering June morning he escaped by leaning in the shade. "I'm trying to keep that positive vibe going," he said. "That's all I can right now. I can't look in the past."
Although he's trying to change his vibe, his approach came into question early last year after Smith took a shot at him for his study habits. There's still a bit of a frost between the two. Smith was asked if he could see a change in Jarrett's approach, and he said simply, "We're all here to play football. That's what we're here to do."
If Jarrett produces, he'd go a long way toward winning Smith over, but Jarrett knows he has to put the process before the product if he even wants to get on the field.
He was only activated for eight games last year, and that's when he was blocked by the stalwart receiving tandem of Keary Colbert and Drew Carter. This offseason, they brought Muhsin Muhammad back and added D.J. Hackett in free agency.
With a talented group of receivers on hand, a roster spot seems possible but playing time no certainty. Since he doesn't play special teams, it's still going to be very hard for him to be active on game day, barring an injury.
Still, Jarrett said he's listening to his elders this year, hoping to avoid some of last year's pitfalls, and getting past the pain of his rookie year.
"No, I just didn't understand," Jarrett said when asked if he underestimated the difficulty of his transition from college. "I knew everybody was good in the NFL and you can't get here without having some kind of talent.
"Just learning from guys like Moose, D.J. and Steve and the coaches, I have definitely been in the playbook, the weight room working out and getting in shape for this season. I know what to expect going into this season and I'm going to try to go out and make plays."