SPARTANBURG, S.C. - Panthers offensive lineman Bruce Campbell loved playing basketball in his youth, but the hulking Campbell certainly wasn't cut out to be a guard.
Same goes for football.
The 6-6, 315-pound Campbell, a tackle in college, didn't seem to fit very well as a guard in his first two NFL seasons with the Oakland Raiders, but now he has a new lease on life at his old position.
"Once I realized what the trade was about, I was like, 'Yes,'" said Campbell, traded from the Raiders to the Panthers for running back Mike Goodson on March 30. "It's a new opportunity and a fresh start basically. I'm just trying to take every advantage of this opportunity."
In the estimation of Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, Campbell is doing just that. Campbell has primarily backed up Pro Bowl left tackle Jordan Gross throughout training camp, but Campbell worked with the first team Thursday when Gross got a day off.
"He has done some really good things," Rivera said. "He's a physical player who has some physical attributes that you like at that position - long arms and very athletic.
"He's done a nice job, and he's developing. That's really the most important thing because a guy like that, his future is bright."
Campbell looked like an athletic star in the making from an early age. His father, also named Bruce, starred on the basketball court at Providence College in the mid-1970s and was drafted by the New Jersey Nets.
Not surprisingly, the younger Campbell first was drawn to basketball, but he gave it up entering his senior year of high school to concentrate on football.
"I had a love for that growing up," the soft-spoken Campbell said. "But then I started playing football, and things changed."
Campbell was among the most sought after offensive tackles in the nation out of Hyde Leadership School in Hamden, Conn. He chose to attend the University of Maryland and enjoyed three strong seasons there before turning pro.
The Raiders selected him in the fourth round of the 2009 draft, telling him soon after that they planned to move him from tackle to guard. He played in 10 games as a rookie, primarily on special teams, and appeared in just four games last season.
"You don't see many 6-7 guards," Campbell said. "It's hard to be tall inside and go against players that are mostly 6-4. It's hard to stay low. Plus, I'm used to having space from high school and college being at left tackle. I like being out in space.
"The transition back has been kind of hard because I played guard for two years. I still have some of those guard traits as far as being real aggressive. I'm just trying to relax a little bit more and be patient back outside, just waiting for everything to develop."
To help with the transition back and his continued development as a pro, Campbell has leaned on Gross, who is entering his 10th NFL season.
"He's a Pro Bowler and somebody that I watched all through college," Campbell said. "I'm just learning from him, just taking it all in. His technique is so crisp."
Campbell has gotten some limited work at right tackle, and Rivera said he's looked good there as well. He also has the experience of playing guard, and being versatile is a plus for players trying to stick with the Panthers' strong lineup.
"The talent we've got on the offensive line and as a team is great," Campbell said. "We've just got to put it all together."