Carolina Panthers

NFL rookies, first year players to go through more character training

CHARLOTTE -- With all the high-profile problems the NFL has endured since commissioner Roger Goodell took over just over a year ago, incoming players knew they were going to get a heavy dose of talk about character.

They're getting even more starting next week.

All the Carolina Panthers' rookies and first-year players on the roster and the practice squad will participate in a series of eight weekly meetings with director of player development (and Rock Hill resident) Donnie Shell beginning Monday morning. The meetings will cover many aspects of the league's conduct policy, going over most of the topics they already heard about during the rookie symposium and here since they were drafted.

"That's an understatement. It's almost overkill," Panthers rookie linebacker Jon Beason said when asked about the repetition of the message. "I feel like if a guy hasn't been in trouble as of yet, you're not going to get in trouble."

Beason wasn't trying to diminish the importance of the subject, it's just that he's heard it plenty, and coming from the University of Miami, he's sensitive to how reputations are born. He's one of the Hurricanes who never found himself in trouble, never saw his draft stock fall because of character concerns. So to his mind, having Goodell come down hard on players like Adam "Pacman" Jones and Tank Johnson seems natural.

"I think not to point the blame on media, but they focus more on the negative than what people should be doing and what people are doing," Beason said. "In that sense, the commissioner's always talking about different disciplinary acts with guys, it's almost a given. If you get in trouble, we're going to lose what's most important to us, and that's the sport."

• CONTRAST IN STYLES: While rookie Ryne Robinson had a lackluster first week returning kicks and punts, the possibility exists that the team could still use pack-mule Nick Goings on kickoffs.

Robinson, drafted in the fourth round specifically for his return skills, averaged a pedestrian 21.3 yards per attempt last week. Goings, with a straight-ahead style, led the team at 24.2 yards per return last year, when he was pressed into service because no one else was very good at it.

"It kinds of works as a 1-2 punch," Robinson said. "Nick is more of a smash-mouth runner. He'll get north-and-south, he'll run right at you. He's a bigger body. I'll run in there, but I've got to get out of there quick. I've got to get on the outside and take off.

"I just think we're definitely two different types of runners. It's a good thing for our team that we have two guys doing it, and we can be versatile with it."

Robinson said he learned some important lessons in last week's opener, from watching tape of himself and seeing veteran return star Dante Hall take a kickoff 84 yards.

• THE LAST WORD: One television reporter last week asked backup quarterback David Carr about the Panthers' focus on this week's game, considering Houston was considered by most fans a winnable game.

The fact he went 22-53 as a starter with the Texans the last five years gave Carr an interesting perspective on the question.

"We got that a lot," he replied. "So I can understand."