SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Byron Bell wants to play left tackle. He wants to play left tackle in Carolina for a long time. But Bell makes one thing very clear: where he plays takes a backseat to winning.
"Yes I would (want to take on left tackle responsibility)," Bell said. "One day, this team could look at me as that franchise left tackle.
"To be honest with you, I'll play wherever the coaches put me. If it's back at right tackle, so be it. I just want to play and help this team win."
Since signing with Carolina as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2011, Bell has primarily served as the team's starting right tackle, with a few games at guard mixed in.
In training camp this year, the naturally left-handed Bell, who played left tackle throughout his college career at New Mexico, has practiced at both left and right tackle. He and Nate Chandler have rotated in and out of both tackle spots with the first team. (Head coach Ron Rivera hopes to settle on a starting left tackle by the second week of the preseason.)
"It's not too difficult," said Bell, who entered camp lighter at 330 pounds to better handle speed rushes. "I'm naturally left, so going over there I feel comfortable."
There's more notoriety attached to the left tackle position as the protector of the quarterback's blindside, but Bell feels he's been sufficiently challenged during his three seasons manning the right side.
"I can remember playing Minnesota my rookie year, and (Jared) Allen would come over to the right side and sometimes I had to block him. Those defensive ends, they switch," Bell explained. "Last year in the preseason against the Ravens, Terrell Suggs usually lines up against the left tackle but I had to go against him some plays."
Bell believes he can succeed at left tackle. He wants to prove it. But as he said at the start, his priority is helping the Panthers prove a more important point.
"At the end of the day, it's about winning ball games," Bell said. "The fans want to win; we want to win; Mr. Richardson wants to win; Coach Rivera wants to win; Mr. Gettleman wants to win; I want to win.
"They say we can't do it back-to-back. In my opinion, we can, and we will."