CHARLOTTE - Carolina Panthers rookie Everette Brown does not look like an NFL defensive end, but he's working on that.
Brown is short and light for his position by NFL standards at 6-foot-1 and 256 pounds. That's obvious when he stands next to teammates who play in the same spot, such as Julius Peppers (6-7, 283) or Tyler Brayton (6-6, 280).
So, he's been bulking up with visits to the Panthers weight room - more than the twice-a-week regimen mandated by the team.
"It's always been an issue with me," Brown said. "People talk about my size - or the size that I lack. I didn't feel I was as strong as I needed to be when I first got here. Now I'm getting there."
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Undersized or not, Brown's playing time has increased as injuries hit the Panthers' defense. He got his first start last Nov. 19 against Miami, with Peppers limited by a hand injury and veteran Charles Johnson (pectoral) missing the game.
Attracted by his quickness and energy, the Panthers picked Brown in the second round of last spring's NFL draft, trading their No. 1 pick in 2010 to San Francisco to do so.
The Panthers, looking for a young defensive end to complement Peppers and surprised to see Brown available at the 43rd spot, thought Brown had the potential of a first-rounder.
"The move they made during the draft was big," Brown said. "I feel like they wanted me to come in and contribute pretty quickly. I've been comfortable with that."
Peppers has been playing primarily on passing downs, so Brown has been in the lineup on first and second downs, focusing on stopping the run.
That is uncertain territory for Brown, a pass-rushing specialist at Florida State who had 23 sacks in 25 starts for the Seminoles.
In the two games against Atlanta and Miami that Peppers has been limited, Brown has made five tackles in addition to three quarterback pressures.
But run defense takes different skills than rushing the passer. Brown's quickness can be negated in the trenches, so he continues to hit the weight room.
"He's holding up pretty well," defensive line coach Brian Baker said. "He's holding the point ... and getting off blocks pretty good. He's learned how to use his hands, so his power can help him with his athletic ability. In college, he was used to beating guys by using his momentum. You'd hit a guy, make a tackle. These (NFL) guys stay on you longer. He's had to learn the discipline of technique.
"But he's getting it. Before, he thought run defense was a necessary evil. Now he understands that you've got to earn the right to rush the passer. You have to get it to third and long."
When Brown gets his chances to rush the passer, he has had one sack (against Washington's Jason Campbell) and nine quarterback hurries. But that has been a learning process, too.
"He's still getting used to how quickly the quarterback gets the ball out," Baker said. "Everette has had some really good rushes, but he gets there and the ball's already been thrown. So all of a sudden he's frustrated. I tell him, hey, the guy got a quick read and the ball's out. You've just got to keep going."
Brown has also become more of a locker room presence. And with Peppers playing on a one-year contract, Brown might be needed to take another pretty big step next season.
"Absolutely, he needs to realize that," linebacker Jon Beason said. "With the uncertainty next year with Pep, (Brown) needs to kind of take that leadership spot. There will be more demanded, and he's going to have to run with it.
"I don't think he's afraid of the pressure. He's been a good pro. He hasn't been very rookie-like."