When Ryan Kalil went down in Week 5 last year with a foot injury, the Panthers had to turn to a familiar face at center: Geoff Hangartner. And with more injuries this year, it’s likely Hangartner will play another large role.
Filling in at center is nothing new for Hangartner. He first started for the Panthers when then-starting center Justin Hartwig went on the injured reserve after Week 1 in 2006.
The Panthers drafted 6-foot-4, 315-pound Edmund Kugbila in the fourth round of this year’s draft in hopes of him competing to be the starting right guard. He was available for little more than bike workouts in OTAs, however, due to a sore leg, and he hasn’t been able to compete in training camp.
Carolina also recently brought in former Panther Travelle Wharton, who was cut by the Bengals two weeks ago, for a physical. He is another option, should the Panthers want more offensive line depth.
But for now, the Panthers will stick by Hangartner, who’s started 55 games at center and guard for Carolina in his two stints with the team over six seasons.
Although Hangartner can see the Panthers are looking at competition for his starting role, he doesn’t need any more motivation going into training camp.
“There’s push every year,” Hangartner said. “There’s always competition in training camp; it happens every year. You just have to go out there and compete.”
When Ryan Kalil was given a routine day off Tuesday, Hangartner shifted to center and Garry Williams was plugged in as the first-team right guard.
While the transition back to center isn’t tough for Hangartner, he’s knows it’s a tough transition for the team.
“Well, the hiccup is that Ryan Kalil’s not in there,” Hangartner said. “We’re at our best when Kalil’s playing center; he’s the best center in the game in my opinion. It’s not a huge issue communication-wise, the only thing is that Ryan’s not playing.
“I’ve played a lot of center in my career, so you just have to do more communicating at center. It’s not a huge change for me.”
There are going to be uncertainties with the offensive line this year, but with Hangartner’s versatility and veteran presence, he’s sure to play a key role again.