SPARTANBURG There's a saying in the NFL: "The eye in the sky don't lie."
Players repeat it. Coaches believe it. Videotape - shot from above the action that can be so chaotic in real time - is the league's slow-motion truth teller.
Everette Brown, the Panthers' second-year defensive end, knows this. So during the offseason, Brown decided to study his rookie year with Carolina - one play at a time.
"I looked at myself a lot on film," he said. "I looked at games last year, and I really didn't like what I saw. I saw a guy who was inconsistent."
True. Brown played as a reserve in 15 games last season and made little impact. If I asked you what was the signature play of his rookie season, what would you say?
To be fair, with Julius Peppers and Tyler Brayton installed as the starters, Brown didn't have a ton of chances. When he did, his production was of the "almost" variety - he had 16 quarterback pressures, which was second among the defensive ends behind Peppers, but only 2.5 quarterback sacks. Brown almost would get there, and then the ball would be gone.
Late in the season, he did have a sack of Brett Favre in the December win against Minnesota - a nice highlight for anyone. But in general, Brown's rookie year was forgettable. It also was something that made you wonder if the Panthers trading away their 2010 first-round choice to get him really made sense - they did that in the 2009 draft so they could select Brown in the second round.
Brown grew up in Stantonsburg, 225 miles east of Charlotte, before going to Florida State. He's a high-character guy. His high school coach once told our reporter David Scott: "How many times can you say your best student, your hardest worker, your best player - your best kid - are all the same person? We had that with Everette."
For a defensive end, however, Brown is undersized. He's 6-foot-1 and weighs about 258, which means the behemoth offensive tackles who block him often are 5 inches taller and 60 pounds heavier.
For Brown, then, the game is all about speed. He will never overpower offensive tackles regularly, so he needs to be able to out-quick them.
"For me, what's so important is my takeoff," Brown said. "Getting that initial burst. I have to make sure that's consistent. If that's slow, then I'm slow, and I'm not going to win."
At Florida State, Brown also faced big offensive tackles and routinely whipped them with his speed. In 2008, as a junior, he had 13.5 sacks and was runner-up for ACC Player of the Year to Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer.
The NFL, of course, is different. Brown knows another NFL truism, too: Many players make their biggest leap between the first and second year of their careers. Brown believes he can do that. He said his technique is better and his offseason workouts have been helpful.
"I feel more explosive and faster," he said. "I can go longer and harder.
"I want to take it upon myself to hold myself accountable on every play, to make sure I did something to affect the offense and help our defense be successful."
Panthers defensive coordinator Ron Meeks had great success with speedy, smallish defensive ends at Indianapolis, where Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis became Pro Bowlers.
It's very possible Meeks won't start Brown again this season - the Panthers might use Charles Johnson and Brayton on the early downs - but then try to get Brown more pass-rushing opportunities on third-and-longs than he had last season.
When he gets chances, though, Brown knows he must deliver. Like the NFL's version of "Big Brother," that eye in the sky always is watching.