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Kalil's value not measured in numbers


CHARLOTTE - In the case of Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith, the numbers don't lie.

In the case of Panthers center Ryan Kalil, the numbers don't exist.

While Smith's statistics screamed for inclusion on the NFC Pro Bowl team - 1,308 receiving yards and 17.9 yards per reception - Kalil's only official stat is a tackle following an interception by the Atlanta Falcons.

And that clearly isn't why Kalil made the Pro Bowl team along with Smith.

"What we do as an offense starts with the center, in terms of blocking for run and pass. That's very important," Carolina head coach Ron Rivera said. "At the point of attack, he controls the blocking schemes for our offensive line, helping to identify which way the offensive line is going in terms of their protections and what they have to do. In this system, that's not an easy thing. Plus, he's blocked very well this season."

As a result, Kalil will attend his third consecutive Pro Bowl, though it's the first time he's been voted in and the first time he'll be a starter.

"It's a huge honor. There are a lot of good centers in this league, so I'm very humbled," Kalil said. "You're only as good as the guys you play next to, and I've been real fortunate to play next to some really good linemen who have helped me out tremendously."

Rivera believes that one of Kalil's fellow linemen as well as the guy responsible for getting the ball to Smith should join them in Hawaii, and they very well may. Left tackle Jordan Gross and rookie quarterback Cam Newton are first alternates for the January 29 game.

"I'm disappointed for Cam and for Jordan," Rivera said. "But we are going to be recognized by two guys that do deserve it. Ryan Kalil has most certainly proven himself, and the way Steve Smith has played has been outstanding."

Rivera added that three defensive players – cornerback Chris Gamble, defensive end Charles Johnson and linebacker James Anderson – were worthy of consideration. They weren't listed as alternates, but DeAngelo Williams is fourth alternate for NFC running backs.

"We've got a lot of guys who have played extremely well, and it's been a lot of fun to watch. Unfortunately, our record doesn't show it," Rivera said. "I think if our record was better, we'd have a few more guys, but that's the nature of the game. If you're 10-6, you're going to get a few more guys."

Rivera disputed the suggestion that Newton's numbers – 20 touchdown passes but 16 interceptions – weren't worthy, pointing to his 14 rushing touchdowns, an NFL record for quarterbacks.

Newton took the results in stride.

"I'm honored. Who am I to be mad at being first alternate?" he said. "The competitor in me wants to be better than that, but look who's on the roster. You've got Drew Brees, you've got Aaron Rodgers, you've got Eli Manning. Those guys are at the peak of their game, and they're still soaring."

Newton certainly played a significant role in Smith's fifth Pro Bowl trip, helping the 11-year veteran rank fourth in the NFL in receiving yards and sixth in yards per reception.


Such stats led to Smith's first invitation since 2008, but as with Kalil, it isn't all about numbers.

"Talk about unselfish play - look at what he did," Rivera said, referencing Smith's block last Saturday that sprang Brandon LaFell for a franchise-record 91-yard touchdown. "Brandon catches a ball and has a chance at a big gain, and Steve cuts three guys off. He could have easily just sat back and cheered, but he got in the way of three guys to allow Brandon to score.

"If that doesn't tell you there's a guy who wants to win and give everything he's got, I don't know what will."

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