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Kalil makes shift to guard in latest Panthers line change

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Ryan Kalil played only center at Southern California, but when he went to the Senior Bowl he was told to learn the two guard positions, too.

"They told me guys are more valuable when they can play all three positions," Kalil said.

Good thing he listened, because the Carolina Panthers rookie was practicing with the first team at right guard on Tuesday in another shake up to the ever-changing offensive line.

"Now they throw me in the right guard position and I've never played guard. But I'm adjusting pretty well," Kalil said. "The big thing for me is just getting the plays down. I went a month just kind of focusing on the center position and now I've got to move over. But as a center I've got to know all three of those positions anyway, so this is good for me."

Kalil's shift to right guard came a day after he was working with the second team at center, and four days after Kalil started at center in the exhibition loss to Philadelphia.

It's been a lot to learn for the second-round draft pick. "Moving to center is probably harder than moving to guard," coach John Fox said. "I like what I've seen of him at guard so far."

The musical chairs on the offensive line is due to guard Jeremy Bridges' arrest the day before training camp began. Bridges was charged with misdemeanor assault after a woman said he pointed a gun at her outside a strip club. Bridges, who was expected to start, was suspended for the first two regular season games.

The Panthers have looked at several different combinations over the past couple of weeks, but Tuesday was the first time the 6-foot-2, 302-pound Kalil was at right guard.

"I think the biggest thing is technically there are subtle differences here and there," Kalil said. "Obviously I don't have to snap the ball so I don't have to worry about that, but it's back a little farther. Being between two veteran guys really helps out."

Kalil has been quizzing veteran left guard Mike Wahle, who has been impressed with Kalil in the preseason.

"He's going to be a good player in this league," Wahle said. "He's got some things he needs to work on certainly, but as does everybody. But for the first time out, playing with the ones, I thought he did a good job."

Kalil did struggle at times in his start at center against the Eagles. The first-team offensive line allowed Jake Delhomme to be sacked three times. Kalil gave up one of them, to fellow former USC star Mike Patterson.

"For the most part I thought I played pretty well and the coaches let me know that they thought I played pretty well, so that felt pretty good," Kalil said. "I did give up a sack to Mike Patterson but those are things we get to learn from and there's a bunch of stuff that I can get better at. I'm excited about how everything is going."

Kalil doesn't have a traditional offensive lineman's body. Critics around draft time complained about his strength and how he would line up against big defensive tackles. But the Panthers believe he'll eventually be a long-term starter -- somewhere.

"Whether I'm on that starting five, I don't know. We don't know yet," Kalil said. "So what I've learned so far is, this is what's going to happen, we're going to throw you in a spot that maybe you're not as comfortable with. But it's one of those things that helps, especially in a game where injuries can happen at any second.

"So for now, I'm at the guard spot and I'm going to learn it and I'm going to do the best I can."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.

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