Pro­tect­ing Cam no sweat for the Pan­thers’ ‘Sweat­pack’

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY BREN­DAN MARKS bmarks@char­lot­teob­server.com

Tay­lor Mo­ton has ex­celled in his first sea­son as the Carolina Pan­thers’ start­ing right tackle, fill­ing the void left by Daryl Wil­liams and Matt Kalil’s knee in­juries while still pro­tect­ing quar­ter­back Cam New­ton.

Ev­ery­one’s heard a few bad nick­names in their time, but ... Sweat­pack? Re­ally?

Poor Tay­lor Mo­ton. “First time I met Sweat­pack,” quar­ter­back Cam New­ton said this week of the Pan­thers’ sec­ond-year right tackle, “ev­ery­body was in the meet­ing room, and he was just sweat­ing. Bad. Drip­ping sweat.

“I let him go that day, and the next day I came in, he’s still sweat­ing. I said, ‘Bro, Sweat­pack, golly you’re sweat­ing a lot!’ And it just stuck.”

Even now, a year and a half af­ter that meet­ing, Mo­ton hasn’t been able to shake the nick­name. Even as he grew from a fresh-faced sec­on­dround pick out of Western Michi­gan into the team’s start­ing right tackle, he has car­ried the moniker with him.

And from the sound of it, it’s not go­ing any­where.

“I think it’s go­ing to stick for awhile,” Mo­ton said this week with a chuckle. “I don’t see (Cam) chang­ing it, but if he does, that’d be nice.”

Truth­fully, ev­ery­one calls Mo­ton some­thing dif­fer­ent.

Tight end Chris Man­hertz, for ex­am­ple, says Mo­ton is the strong­est man on the team. Ex-gen­eral man­ager Dave Get­tle­man called him a “big ol’ hog molly” when the team first drafted him. Right guard Trai Turner sim­ply says he’s “spe­cial.” Left tackle Chris Clark, who lives in the condo across from Mo­ton, calls him the team’s “si­lent foun­da­tion.”

It doesn’t mat­ter what any­body calls Mo­ton, though, as long as they ac­knowl­edge what he’s brought to this Pan­thers of­fense.

Sta­bil­ity. Smarts. Strength. And in­creas­ing by the day? Con­fi­dence.

“I think game-in, game-out, get­ting in these sit­u­a­tions, I feel like I’m get­ting more com­fort­able,” Mo­ton said, “and it helps hav­ing lead­ers build­ing me up, telling me I can do this. ...

“Telling me that I be­long.”

‘I’M DEF­I­NITELY NOT SAT­IS­FIED’

Mo­ton be­gan this sum­mer ini­tially com­pet­ing for the team’s start­ing left guard spot, but when guard/tackle Amini Si­la­tolu and right tackle Daryl Wil­liams both went down with knee in­juries dur­ing train­ing camp in July, the plan changed. Mo­ton slid to right tackle ... where he re­mained for all of three weeks.

By then, left tackle Matt Kalil had suf­fered a knee in­jury and was placed on in­jured re­serve be­fore the sea­son be­gan. That meant Mo­ton had to shift again from right tackle to left, his third

po­si­tion in as many months.

Those ad­just­ments took time, but Mo­ton was ca­pa­ble be­cause of the ex­tra work he put in this off­sea­son.

“This past off­sea­son, he was here al­most ev­ery day,” coach Ron Rivera said. “I mean, any time I would walk down­stairs, I’d see him in the weight room work­ing out when he didn’t have to be here — in Fe­bru­ary and March, you would see him. And he was just here, work­ing out and just hav­ing a good time.

“So you could see that he was re­ally se­ri­ous and fo­cused in on de­vel­op­ing him­self.”

Of course, that shouldn’t come as much of a sur­prise to any­one around the team who re­ally knows him.

Even with his nat­u­ral gifts — his 6-foot-5, 325pound frame and all the raw strength that comes with it — Mo­ton was still a rel­a­tively green prospect when the team drafted him out of Western Michi­gan. He started all 52 games he played in col­lege, set­ting a school record in the process, but still needed time to ac­cli­mate to the pro­fes­sional game.

Mo­ton spent most of last sea­son as the Pan­thers’ swing tackle and ex­tra line­man in jumbo pack­ages. But this off­sea­son, he wanted to ex­pe­dite that growth process.

Cue those Fe­bru­ary and March lift­ing ses­sions.

“My rookie year, I didn’t re­ally know what to ex­pect, so I was just like, ‘Can’t just freak out,’” Mo­ton said. “So I just told my­self to take it one day at a time and what­ever comes, comes.

“I’m def­i­nitely not sat­is­fied with where I’m at. Just want to make sure I build on it and just be­come the best player I can be.”

‘THE LIGHT BULB WENT ON’

Those spring­time morn­ings spent lift­ing paid div­i­dends this sum­mer.

Mo­ton was phys­i­cally stronger dur­ing April and May work­outs with the team, but he also proved some­thing im­por­tant to Rivera and run game co­or­di­na­tor John Matsko.

“We were con­cerned that he may only re­ally be a right tackle player,” Rivera said, “but then Coach Matsko started mov­ing him from right side to left side, to in­side-out, out­side-in, and you saw a lot more of that ( po­si­tional ver­sa­til­ity).

“You started to see the con­fi­dence build.”

Mo­ton stayed on the left side whenWil­liams re­turned and started the team’s sea­son-opener against Dal­las. But when Wil­liams went down with an in­jury to the same knee in the fourth quar­ter, that shifted Mo­ton back to right tackle. Then the team signed Clark as a free agent the next week, fi­nally lock­ing Mo­ton into one po­si­tion.

And since then, he’s run with it.

“Af­ter Daryl had the knee in­jury, we moved him over there,” Rivera said, “it was like some­thing went off. The light bulb went on.”

Pro Foot­ball Fo­cus, a foot­ball anal­y­sis site, named Mo­ton to its All-Pro team for the first quar­ter of the sea­son. Through Week 6, Mo­ton al­lowed just one quar­ter­back pres­sure ev­ery 91 snaps, best in the league for tack­les with at least 200 snaps.

“I tell him ev­ery game, ‘Man, you some­thing spe­cial,’” Clark, an 11-year NFL vet­eran, said of Mo­ton. “To see a guy that young, that un­der­stands and has the dis­ci­pline? He’s go­ing to play this game a long time.”

‘AN EX­CLA­MA­TION POINT OF THE IM­PACT’ HE’S HAD

This week fig­ures to be Mo­ton’s tough­est matchup as a starter. The Bal­ti­more Ravens have the league’s No. 1 over­all de­fense in terms of points al­lowed, yards al­lowed, and sacks. Vet­eran Ter­rell Suggs, with 131 ca­reer sacks, will be bear­ing down on Mo­ton all af­ter­noon.

It’s about as big a chal­lenge as Mo­ton could ask for.

But Mo­ton said he isn’t think­ing about the rep­u­ta­tion of his in­com­ing op­po­nent.

“I pay at­ten­tion to the sit­u­a­tion, what’s go­ing on, then just lis­ten to what play is called, and then I just stay in that realm right there, do­ing my job,” Mo­ton said. “My sole fo­cus is that play, that mo­ment right there. And that’s all that mat­ters.”

New­ton said this week he isn’t par­tic­u­larly con­cerned about what gets Mo­ton go­ing, so long as he keeps up the level of play he’s been at all sea­son.

“He stepped into a role that was a ques­tion mark, and now it’s an ex­cla­ma­tion point of the im­pact that he’s been mak­ing,” New­ton said. “I don’t know if he’s play­ing within him­self, but he’s play­ing with a lot of con­fi­dence that a lot of peo­ple are re­ly­ing on him, and know­ing that no match-up is in fa­vor of the op­pos­ing team, he’s go­ing to do his job.

“He’s very coach­able, he lis­tens, and takes heed to what he’s sup­posed to do. And if he doesn’t know, he’s go­ing to ask, and that’s what I don’t have a prob­lem with. I tease him a lot, but he knows me enough by now that ... as much suc­cess as he wants for him­self, I want for him as well.”

Mo­ton’s hard work is the rea­son he’s in this po­si­tion. He has groomed him­self, through dis­ci­pline and in­tel­li­gence, into a start­ing right tackle in just his sec­ond year in the NFL.

It’s also ev­i­dent, from the way ev­ery­one in the locker room jokes with him, that his older team­mates have quickly come to ac­cept Mo­ton for who he is.

“I al­ways tease him with how he talks,” New­ton said jok­ingly of Mo­ton’s kindly Mid­west­ern ac­cent, “but that’s nei­ther here nor there.”

So, all that said, is there any­thing else peo­ple should know about him?

“Nope,” Mo­ton says with a toothy smile. “Noth­ing at all.”

All right, Sweat­pack. What­ever you say.

DAVID T. FOS­TER III dt­fos­ter@char­lot­teob­server.com

Carolina Pan­thers of­fen­sive tackle Tay­lor Mo­ton (72), work­ing against of­fen­sive guard Tay­lor Hearn (62), finds his con­fi­dence is grow­ing.

Tay­lor Mo­ton

JEFF SINER jsiner@char­lot­teob­server.com

Carolina Pan­thers quar­ter­back Cam New­ton, cen­ter, fol­lows his blocker, tackle Tay­lor Mo­ton, right, on a run up the mid­dle against Wash­ing­ton on Oct. 14.

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