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June 04, 2007

Will Hartwig be the center or move to guard?

If a shakeup of the offensive line is in the future, Justing Hartwig won’t be happy, but he won’t fight a move to guard.

A year ago, Hartwig was viewed as the unquestioned starting center after signing a huge contract with the Panthers. He was seen as a younger, more athletic version of Jeff Mitchell, the player he was brought in to replace.

But, after a season in which he barely played because of a groin injury, nothing’s certain for Hartwig. The Panthers used a second-round draft pick on center Ryan Kalil.

"I was really surprised,’’ Hartwig said Monday. "You immediately start to question things about yourself and what the team’s doing. After talking to (offensive line coach Dave) Magazu, he made it clear to me that with the injuries we’ve had, our offensive line struggled at times last year. (Kalil) was the best player available and they did what they needed to do for the franchise. I understand that, but, at the same time, when you’re the starting center, it makes you question things. I know they did what was best for the team. Who knows what will happen moving forward?’’

This much is certain: Former high-priced free agents and early-round draft picks are supposed to be on the field, but the Panthers can play only one center at a time.

The Panthers gave Hartwig some work at guard in the minicamp immediately after the draft, but he’s been back at center during the voluntary June workouts. The Panthers have been saying they want their five best offensive linemen to start and it’s hard to imagine a healthy Hartwig not being one of those five.

But will he be at center?

"I’d like to play center,’’ Hartwig said. "But, if they decide to move me, then it is what it is. I’ve played guard before. I really don’t know what’s going to happen moving forward. But I’m playing center right now, getting all the calls down and learning the new offense. I’m really happy with the offense and the direction we’re going.’’

But it remains possible Hartwig could go in a different direction. If the Panthers really want Kalil to start at center, Hartwig will be thrown into the mix at right guard, where Evan Mathis, Jeremy Bridges and Geoff Hangartner are competing.

Hartwig has some experience at guard, but he’s making it clear his preference is to stay at center.

"I played guard my rookie year,’’ Hartwig said. "I appeared in a handful of games. That’s about it. My career in the NFL has been at center. I started 47 games in three years at Tennessee. That’s where I had my success and that’s where I know that I excel at. I haven’t had my success in the league at guard. I think I could be successful, but I just haven’t done it yet. We’ll see what the future brings.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on June 4, 2007 at 04:07 PM | Permalink

Comments

Good to have you back Pat!

Posted by: CatDawg | Jun 4, 2007 8:59:08 PM

I really dont like Hartwigs attitude on this page. He sounds like he is not willing to play at G and if he gets beat out at Center he will complane and not be happy.

Posted by: justaman | Jun 4, 2007 11:41:14 PM

Hartwig should be a little more understanding after pretty much being a no-show in 2006 (admittedly due to injury). Our O-Line was a big reason for our losses last year so its hard to have sympathy for him when they draft someone who can compete with him in that position. Bottom line is, the Panthers need a solid, cohesive front 5 to be successful offensively. Drafting Kalil only improved those prospects.

My advice to Hartwig? Compete. If you're better than Kalil in camp (certainly possible), you will start. Otherwise, start learning guard zone blocking schemes or find another team.

Posted by: Lance | Jun 5, 2007 9:08:45 AM

Sounds to me like he understands.
I don't understand the two comments before me where they say it sounds like Hartwig has attitude.

I know if they were in his position, they would be saying the same things he is.

Either way, I believe Hartwig is one of our top 5 linemen.

Posted by: James | Jun 5, 2007 4:00:17 PM

I dont understand the first posters either, the guy is saying that his prefered position is center and he would rather it stay that way. Hartwig will be the starter, get healthy buddy.

Posted by: clueslessfans | Jun 5, 2007 4:38:19 PM

I didn't mention attitude at all in my comment. The NFL is a business, plain and simple, and Kalil is insurance. Hartwig knows that.

If Hartwig competes in camp, which I expect he will, he has nothing to worry about. Your o-line needs depth regardless and Kalil was a terrific steal at that point in the 2nd round.

Posted by: Lance | Jun 5, 2007 4:52:47 PM

Harwig clearly stated he would play guard, but has spent his time in the nfl playing center. Also, he understands this is a business. He is a team player, and obviously will play where they decide to put him. He has the experience and knowledge playing in the nfl, and will be a great asset, give him a break.

Posted by: panthrfn | Jun 6, 2007 7:33:12 AM

what?

Posted by: me | Jun 7, 2007 8:15:44 PM

Sigh, why do lunatics have to have internet access?

Posted by: Undisclosed | Jun 8, 2007 8:20:20 AM

i agree that justin seems to have an attitude. i smelled trouble last year when he came to camp with a mohawk, then he layed out all year with a groin pull. i say trade him if you can get anything. hes not a team player.in one interview he questioned the organizations competence and ,if im reading between the lines correct, hes stating hes not a good guard and will be angry if they switch him to guard.

Posted by: ray | Jun 13, 2007 11:26:35 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

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