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Chandler changes sides


CHARLOTTE – When the Panthers' walkthrough concluded Wednesday, offensive tackle Nate Chandler walked off the field with 10-year veteran left tackle Jordan Gross, a teammate he's been spending a lot of time with of late.

That's no surprise considering Chandler is making the switch from defensive tackle to offensive tackle as he enters his second season.

Gross is always willing to offer advice to the younger players, and Chandler, who played 10 games at defensive tackle last season, is full of questions now that he's moved to the offensive side of the ball.

"I was willing to do it because I felt comfortable with myself and with the coaches," Chandler said. "It's been challenging for me, but I feel like I'm coming along as far as my techniques as an offensive lineman and getting the plays down."

Chandler does have a history of playing multiple positions. He played offensive line and tight end at UCLA before switching to defensive line as a junior.

"I'm used to switching from position to position, but being in the NFL," Chandler said, "it's a lot different."

Players don't often change positions at this level, but the Panthers coaching staff has been intrigued with Chandler's potential on the offensive side of the ball. He possesses the athleticism, size and experience to make a move of this nature work.

"It wasn't a big surprise, because last year I was playing defense and offense on the scout team. (Offensive line) coach (John) Matsko and (assistant offensive line) coach (Ray) Brown would always say, 'You can play O-line,' and stuff like that," Chandler said. "I came into these offseason workouts with an open mind about which position I might play, considering the team drafted two defensive tackles.

"When they asked me, I wasn't mad, I wasn't shocked," he added. "I just looked at it as an opportunity for me to fight for a position and make a career of it."

So Chandler is looking to those who have made a career out of playing offensive line. He shadows Gross at practice, soaking up as much information and as many tidbits as he can.

"When Jordan is not practicing, I stand by him or coach Brown and they give me tips as far as how to make certain blocks and how to go about certain rushers," Chandler said. "They are trying to help me and make me feel welcome."

The offensive linemen know how to make a new guy feel welcome. It's a fun-loving group that's stirring up laughter more often than not.

"They are hilarious. It's a good group of guys," Chandler said. "They've welcomed me with open arms."

And Chandler welcomes the competition that will take place when training camp and the fight for a roster spot on the offensive line begins.

"I feel like I've grown a lot this offseason. Finishing this minicamp strong is really what I'm looking forward to," Chandler said. "I'm here to try to stay."

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