CHARLOTTE – As a recent member of a successful tight end tandem in Baltimore,
Dickson would love to develop into a similar sidekick for Olsen in 2014, but the first-year Panther understands that production like that doesn't happen by accident.
"If we want to get back there, I've got to prove that I can handle that responsibility to be that guy on the field," Dickson said. "I know I can, but it starts in practice. I respect the heck out of Greg as well as the things that Shockey did for the team, and we're trying to take it to the next level and win some championships."
It didn't turn out that way. Dickson totaled just 16 receptions in those 12 starts – and 25 for the year – while Pitta caught 20 over the final four games of a season that ended with the Ravens not making the playoffs.
After the season, the Ravens signed Pitta – a fourth-round draft pick in 2010 – to a long-term contract. Dickson, a third-round choice by the Ravens that same year, became an unrestricted free agent and jumped at the chance to get a fresh start in Carolina.
"I wouldn't say I was down; I was just disappointed at where the team ended up because I knew that team was way better than that," Dickson said. "Now I'm on a different team, and my goal is to take this as far as we can go.
"Anybody would want to be a part of this team with the things that Coach (Ron) Rivera and all the coaching staff is bringing to the table, and I can't say enough about Cam (Newton) and the things he can do. He's a born winner. He's not going to rest until he wins, and that's contagious. And that defense reminds me of a young Baltimore defense. When you have a defense like that, you can win championships, multiple championships."
If it sounds like Dickson is excited, that's because he is. Regardless of any personal disappointments - he totaled 46 catches the last two seasons after snagging 54 in 2011 – Dickson is determined and driven for the sake of his team.
"I'm just a smart, veteran player who just loves to compete, loves to compete," he said. "Whether that's catching the ball or blocking or special teams, you're going to see 84 out there getting the job done, getting the crowd involved in the game, getting in the end zone.
"My goal is to get that ‘W.' I'm not going to smile until we get that ‘W.' "
The Panthers are excited as well. Olsen has been a dominant force the last two years in a tight end group that has averaged more than 900 receiving yards in Newton's first three seasons. But while the Panthers ranked 18th in the NFL in scoring offense in 2012 and 2013, they ranked fifth when Olsen and Shockey shared the receiving load in Newton's rookie year.
"I know a little bit about that, and it makes me smile," said Dickson, who has worked to get on the same page as Olsen since signing with the Panthers two months ago. "He's an amazing leader. There's a reason he's been doing it great for all these years. He does it right inside the building and outside the building.
"He's a first-class act, and there's nobody I would rather learn from at this point in my career. I'm taking little things from his game and pulling them into mine, and I'm just doing my thing."
Dickson hopes his thing will be contributing to wins. He can't wait for that opportunity but isn't just waiting around as the Panthers' offseason workout program draws to a close.
"I'm pretty pleased with the way things are going, the reps we're getting in and the growth we've had," Dickson said. "It's all a process, and I came here knowing that. I didn't come here asking them to hand me anything.
"My goal is to compete to be out there to help this team get in the playoffs and go deep. This is a good, young team with a great quarterback and a great defense. We can go far. I'm just coming in here as another addition, ready to work."