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Panthers DT Kawann Short 'not rushing' talks about long-term deal

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Kawann Short is the first to admit he’s not a big talker.

But when Short, a 2015 Pro Bowl selection, spoke to reporters on Tuesday, he said two things that made a big statement about himself and first-round pick Vernon Butler.

First, Short isn’t worried about negotiations on a long-term deal that temporarily are on hold -- with emphasis on temporarily.

Second, Short says Butler has a “bigger step" than Short did when he was a rookie in 2013.

That Short isn’t worried about negotiations as he enters the final year of his rookie contract isn’t a surprise. He consistently has said his focus is on improvement, not how much money he’s making or will make.

“If it happens, it happens, but we haven’t focused on that," Short said of a new deal. “I’ve still got a lot I need to do. I’ve put myself in the position, but at the same time, I’m not where I want to be. We’re not rushing the issue."

Odds are Short will get a long-term deal sometime between June and the start of the season. General manager Dave Gettleman has a history of signing key players after June 1.

Last year, he signed quarterback Cam Newton to a five-year, $103.8 million deal on June 2. He signed outside linebacker Thomas Davis to a two-year extension in July and middle linebacker Luke Kuechly in early September.

Gettleman has made it no secret that he wants to get a deal done with Short, who led the team with 11 sacks last season. The Panthers, have about $30 million in cap space and could give the 2013 second-round pick out of Purdue in the neighborhood of the $15 million a year that the market would bear for Short.

The Panthers believe the best way to disrupt opposing offenses is with pressure up the middle, and that makes Short invaluable. He's also an unselfish player, making him even more valuable to a team that covets that type of attitude for the culture that helped Carolina reach the Super Bowl after last season.

“I’m going to lead by example," Short said. “I’m not a guy that says too much. I’ll do what I need to do and put all my work out there on the field. Those guys can jump on board and see me working, and hopefully they’ll do the same."

Short and 2013 first-round pick Star Lotulelei are the starters in a four-man rotation that will include free-agent acquisition Paul Soliai and Butler.

The 6-foot-4, 323-pound Butler already has made a big impression on Short.

“Just seeing him out here for individuals, the guy reminds me of myself when I was first coming out here, trying to get the steps and the concept down pat," Short said. “This guy has got a bigger step than me in my first year.

“Just to see the way he’s working, it’s only right that he’s going to be one of those dominant players."

That has to be a scary thought for opposing quarterbacks as the Panthers continue to find ways to disrupt game plans with a big inside push.

“We’re closest to the ball," Short said of the tackles. “We’re closest to our man as well. The first instinct you’ve got to have is being decisive and have quick hands. That’s what I see out of [Butler]."

That’s what the Panthers saw out of Short when they drafted him. Now they want to make sure they keep him, although Short isn’t focused on that.

“We’re trying to take that next step of winning the Super Bowl," Short said, “... not just getting there."