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Panthers sign G Pollak, LB Onatolu

Posted Mar 22, 2012

CHARLOTTE - Mike Pollak, a starting guard for the Indianapolis Colts for the majority of his four NFL seasons, has signed with the Panthers as an unrestricted free agent.

Carolina also has signed linebacker Kenny Onatolu, a special teams standout the last three years for the Minnesota Vikings.

Pollak could compete for a starting spot along the offensive line. The Panthers re-signed starting right guard Geoff Hangartner but released Travelle Wharton, their longtime starter at left guard.

The 6-3, 301-pounder played in 58 games with 41 starts for the Colts. A second-round draft pick in 2008, Pollak enjoyed a standout career at center for Arizona State but moved to guard as a rookie and made the NFL All-Rookie team after starting 13 games.

He helped Indianapolis allow the fewest sacks in the NFL in 2009 and 2010, providing protection that paved the way for quarterback Peyton Manning to lead the league in passing yards in 2010 and rank second in 2009.

"Mike is a very physical, smart, experienced veteran guard who will come in and compete for a starting position," general manager Marty Hurney said. "Kenny is a very good, physical special teamer who will be given the opportunity to compete for a role at linebacker."

Onatolu made 49 special teams tackles for the Vikings over the past three seasons, tying for the team lead with 24 in 2009 and ranking third on the team in 2010 and 2011. He will reunite with Panthers special teams coordinator Brian Murphy, who held the same role with the Vikings in 2009 and 2010.

The 6-2, 225-pounder had seven tackles on defense for Minnesota with four of them coming in his lone NFL start last season.

A Division II All-American at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Onatolu went undrafted and spent two seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League before joining the Vikings.

Also, defensive back R.J. Stanford has signed his one-year exclusive rights contract. In 2011, Stanford played in 12 games and recorded 20 tackles and one interception.