Although the 2020 NFL season has limited the amount of time rookies can adjust to the pros due to a shortened offseason and a canceled preseason, Carolina Panthers second-round rookie defensive end, Yetur Gross-Matos, has made sure to soak everything in at a quick pace with so many additional new faces on the Carolina defense.
"It's been different from what I expected but I think everyone made the most out of it and being around all these vets and people with all this competitive energy, I think it's better for everyone," Gross-Matos said. "It's going to make everybody a better player, a better coach and it's been nice to be back in this football environment."
Gross-Matos will join a Panthers defense that lost six starters this offseason and will have an average age of 23.45, the youngest NFL defense in the last decade, according to ESPN.
The former Penn State player is one of seven defensive players that Carolina selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.
"I think, especially at my position, having two other players drafted in the same position room, we're able to go through a lot of the same similar situations and bounce ideas off each other," Gross-Matos said. "We have each other to push."
Second-year defensive end Brian Burns, who is also a longer, athletic defensive end like Gross-Matos, has taken him under his wing.
"I think we play kind of different games but he's been someone that's been helping me out a lot," Gross-Matos said. "Anytime he sees me going through a drill or taking notes, he just gives me a little something to put in the back of my mind or coaches me up on a drill to make myself that much better."
Gross-Matos has still made sure to take advantage of the few veterans on the Panthers defense.
Defensive tackle Kawann Short, the longest-tenured player on defense is one of those guys.
"KK (Short) is someone who really leads by example," Gross-Matos said. "That's something I've taken from him so far is just learning how to practice like a veteran. (And) the details that he approaches practice with and that he even carries with him through a walkthrough. (I'm) just trying to pick his brain."
Every detail learned will be necessary and Gross-Matos understands that he has to be as flexible as possible.
"They're mixing and matching guys all over the place right now and versatility is important," Gross-Matos said. "I'm just trying to make myself available anywhere they want me to be or need me to be and I'm going to be willing to do it. So, I'm just going to go out there and take notes of not just what I'm doing but what everyone else is doing."
With Gross-Matos' competitive nature (he even won the Panthers hot dog eating contest last week), that shouldn't be a problem.
"I feel like I've always just not wanted to be the one to let anyone down or let myself down," Gross-Matos said. "I feel like I always just have something to prove and I try to carry myself that way in everything I do and hopefully I make myself proud and everyone else around me."