Safety Haruki Nakamura believes Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers have all of the ingredients to be a perennial playoff team.
They just need a taste of it first.
Nakamura joined the Panthers as a free agent in March after four seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. During that span he helped the Ravens reach the AFC championship game as a rookie in 2008 and win at least one playoff game every year since.
''I know as a young player when you get a taste, it doesn't leave,'' Nakamura said. ''Once this team gets in there and Cam (Newton) gets a taste of being in the playoffs, he's going to be hooked. I don't want to really use this as an example, but it's like a drug. You're constantly thinking: What's it going to take to get back there?''
The Panthers haven't been to the playoffs in four years and haven't won a postseason game since 2005.
But Nakamura believes the Panthers (No. 20 in the AP Pro32) have what it takes to get back after winning four of their final six games last year.
''Coach Rivera has done it - he has a (Super Bowl) ring,'' Nakamura said. ''So he has the plan. It's a matter of once we get in, we're in. We're athletic enough to take it to the top.''
What's unclear is where Nakamura fits in on the way there.
For the first time in his career, Nakamura will have a legitimate chance to win a starting spot.
That's the breaks when you're playing behind a future Hall of Famer like Ed Reed.
So far Nakamura has been sharing first-team reps at safety with incumbent starters Charles Godfrey and Sherrod Martin at training camp. Godfrey is expected to start at strong safety after signing a five-year, $25 million contract extension last year, but Nakamura has a chance to unseat Martin, who struggled in 2011.
''I think that position will come down to what happens in the preseason games,'' Rivera said.
Nakamura seems thrilled to be here.