Rivera: Panthers first round pick, Butler, a work in progress

SPARTANBURG, SC (WCCB Charlotte) — Ron Rivera makes no bones about it–if you are drafted in the first round, you are expected to contribute right away.

But this year’s first round pick, defensive tackle Vernon Butler, isn’t doing all the things to get such a glowing review from Rivera.

“He most certainly will be a work in progress,” Rivera said.

Conditioning is not a problem for the 6′-4” defensive tackle despite leaving the team’s Friday practice with concussions. For Rivera, it’s more about making sure Butler adds emphasis on finishing plays.

“You watch him get in certain positions during the play and he may be in a positive position but he’s not learning how to finish that position out,” Rivera said. “Just because you have a step on your guy it doesn’t mean you have won. He has to get that feel.”

Butler acknowledged that he’s working extra with defensive line coach Eric Washington to improve as a football player.

“We have been really focusing on getting off the ball,” Butler said. “Disrupting in the backfield and getting to the quarterback. (I need) to use my hands and my athleticism.”

Butler’s current play at training camp may just be typical growing pains for any rookie who’s making the jump from college to the pros. And the issue may not be too pressing considering the depth at defensive tackle.  Kawann Short and Star Lotululei are chalked in as the starters with capable back-ups in Kyle Love and Paul Soliai.

“How much (Butler) plays depends on how much he develops and how quickly he has grown as a football player,” Rivera said.