For Carolina Panthers cornerback Kevon Seymour, it wasn’t the heat, it was the humidity — not to mention that he was joining his new team on the eve of the regular season.
Seymour’s 11th-hour arrival from Buffalo last September made for a tough transition, as did those sticky, late-summer days in Charlotte.
“The weather was much different. So I got here, I was dying from the humidity,” said Seymour, who grew up in southern California. “But now I’m getting used to it.”
Seymour, 24, feels he’s better adjusted football-wise in just about every aspect than he was last September, when he was traded to Carolina for wideout Kaelin Clay just a couple of hours after learning he’d made the Bills’ opening-week roster.
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Seymour, the Bills’ sixth-round pick in 2016, will head to training camp next month with a chance to be a Week 1 starter for the first time in his career. Panthers coaches say Seymour is playing with more confidence than he did last season after being acquired from Buffalo on roster cuts day.
Seymour was about to take a nap when he decided to check his phone before nodding off. He had a missed call and a text message from Buffalo’s personnel director informing Seymour that coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane wanted to see him.
“I’m thinking, 'Well, they just made final cuts. I made the team. Maybe they just want to talk to me like, "We need you this year. We need you to step up," ' " Seymour said. “I told him I’m gonna just take my iPad just in case.”
It turns out Seymour needed to turn in his iPad, which contained the Bills’ playbook. McDermott, the ex-Panthers defensive coordinator, told Seymour he’d fielded calls from a couple of teams interested in him but thought Carolina would be a good fit.
“I was excited,” Seymour recalled last week. “I just knew a team wanted me. So that’s always a good thing.”
A quick turnaround
After making arrangements for his girlfriend, daughter and dog in Buffalo, Seymour landed in Charlotte on Sept. 3. A week later, he played mostly special teams during a season-opening victory at San Francisco.
Seymour started at corner for an injured Daryl Worley in a Week 4 victory at New England. He wound up making one other start and playing in all 16 regular-season games, finishing with 20 tackles and five pass breakups while platooning with Worley part of the time.
The 6-foot, 185-pound Seymour was known for his speed at Southern Cal and ran the 40 in a blistering 4.39 seconds at the 2016 NFL scouting combine.
He didn’t look all that fast during his first season with Carolina. But this spring, Seymour displayed more speed and swagger in a two-for-one deal.
“You see a little more confidence. He’s a 4.3 guy, and sometimes you don’t play like that when you’re not confident,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said.
“But you see the speed and quickness coming back. As he continues to grow and learn in what we do, you see him play that way. So that’s a huge positive.”
While Seymour received a lot of first-team reps during OTAs and minicamp, the job opposite James Bradberry is far from his. He’ll have to hold off veterans Ross Cockrell, Captain Munnerlyn and Lorenzo Doss, as well as rookie Donte Jackson, the second-round pick from LSU who ran 4.32 at the combine.
Seymour was diplomatic when asked whether he’s the fastest player in the secondary.
“We’ve got a solid group that can run,” he said. “When you’re talking about fast guys, you’ve just got to line them up and have a race. But D-Jack can roll. So he got me on the times. And then (safety) Colin (Jones) can roll, too.”
With Worley gone and would-be free-agent pickup Bashaud Breeland failing his physical, Seymour hopes he can roll into a bigger role after starting just five games his first two seasons.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “Rookie year I was there (in Buffalo), and I started a few games at nickel and at corner. Last year I started a few games at nickel and corner. So this year I can lock the spot down outside. I’m just working every day to get better.”
In good position
The Panthers used a lot of combinations in the secondary during the spring, and the competition at corner will continue at Wofford. But Rivera says Seymour has put himself in a good position.
“He’s a guy that’s got some experience that has played for us and knows what we’re doing. But we’ve got some other players, as well, that we’re going to take long looks at,” Rivera said. “He most certainly is in the mix. … He’s doing things the way we need to have them done.”
Seymour says he feels more comfortable with the players around him and the overall environment around the city and the team.
A guy who didn’t like the humidity much last September will get a full blast of it in Spartanburg this summer when he goes to his first Panthers training camp at Wofford College.
Given what’s at stake, there’s nowhere he’d rather be.
“It sounds good,” Seymour said of the prospect of being a Week 1 starter. “But right now I’ve just got to put in the work.
“We’ve got fall camp coming up. Just put in the work during fall camp and be productive, and I’m going to let everything else fall in place.”