Nothing soft about Panthers' A.J. Klein

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Carolina Panthers outside linebacker A.J. Klein made a huge rookie mistake last season.

He forgot to bring a pillow to Wofford College for training camp.

"That was bad,'' the second-year player out of Iowa State said on Saturday. "I rolled up a sweatshirt at night as a pillow. That was better than the one they gave me.''

That was arguably Klein's biggest mistake of 2013 after being selected in the fifth round. He played in 16 and started two when veteran Chase Blackburn was out with a foot injury.

He was so impressive, particularly when he replaced Blackburn at San Francisco, that he is expected to push Blackburn for a starting job this season. He showed some of his athletic ability and speed when he came free on a blitz of quarterback Cam Newton during Saturday night's practice at Wofford's Gibbs Stadium.

But Klein is not caught up in starting at this point.

"Mainly right now I am focusing on getting better,'' he said. "I have a lot to improve on from last year. Yesterday, was a good start, but even from yesterday I know I have a long way to go.

"So I’m going to keep on working to become the starter, but I’m not going to hang to my hat on that at the end of the day. I’m just working to make this team better.''

By the way, Klein brought a pillow with him to camp this year, but not much else.

"I have a book,'' he said. "That's about it.''

A book?

"Some people bring gaming systems,'' Klein said. "I have a book. Ghost Ships. The USS Houston gets lost in the Pacific. I’m into War Stories, that sort of stuff.''

There's nothing soft about this player.

Schedule note: The Panthers will hold their first practice in pads today at 3:10 p.m. ET. This will be the first true test for Byron Bell and Nate Chandler, battling to replace the retired Jordan Gross at left tackle.