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With contract settled, Kawann Short says he's working 'like it's another rookie year'

Defensive tackle Kawann Short (right), heading to practice with RB Cameron Artis-Payne, said he's working like he's still trying to earn a contract. Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- After signing a five-year, $80 million deal in April, Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short can enter this year's training camp free from all the talk about whether or not he would sign a contract extension.

A year ago, Short skipped two weeks of voluntary offseason workouts amid contract negotiations, but failed to receive the extension he'd hoped for prior to the start of season. Short, whose 17 sacks the last two years rank him third among all defensive tackles, has enjoyed a drama-free offseason so far this year. He closed his new deal long before July 15, the signing deadline for franchise-tag players.

“I’ve still got to work like I’m still trying to earn one,” Short said last week during the Panthers’ mandatory three-day minicamp. “I come out here every day. That’s in the past now. I’m working like it’s another rookie year for me.

“It’s the same mentality [in camp] -- to do what I’ve been doing and go at the offensive line and make each other get better.”

A second-round draft pick out of Purdue in 2013, Short said he hasn’t done a whole lot of celebrating or grandiose spending after signing the new deal. He took his mother and 3-year-old daughter on a low-key vacation to Key West, and has been preparing to run some camps for youth near his hometown in the Chicago area.

He said his offseason training has remained hard-core, “like still trying to make it in the combine.”

The 2015 Pro Bowl tackle is joined on the defensive line by another former Pro Bowler: veteran defensive end Julius Peppers. Peppers returns to Carolina after making stops in Chicago and Green Bay over the last seven years.

“Everything you’ve got to absorb from Pep and ask questions,” Short said. “As a young guy, I still have room for improvement. We help each other out.”

Focusing on improving -- and turning around a 6-10 season that came on the heels of Super Bowl run -- should be a bit easier for Short, considering he has less to stress about with regard to his future.

“I don’t have to worry about what’s next or what’s that,” Short said. “I’ve just got to worry about coming out here and doing what I’ve been doing.”