SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Ryan Kalil missed football more than most as he waited for training camp to start.
"This was the longest I've been away from football for my entire career," Kalil said. "It's definitely nice to be back."
The Panthers All-Pro center suffered a season-ending injury against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 5 last year. It was a Lisfranc injury to his left foot, which required surgery and months of rehabilitation.
Kalil said he is "right on track" and expects to be a full participant for the start of camp practices. But some initial pain and discomfort are unavoidable.
"It's fully stable, it's strong, it's just going to be a lot of maintenance on it," Kalil said. "It swells up pretty easy, and that's really it."
As he returns to the field, Kalil, along with the other members of the offense, will adjust to simplified play calls, with the intention of accelerating the process between plays.
"It's the same offense, it's just a quicker way of getting the play out," Kalil said. "We looked back and saw we have to get out of the huddle quicker, get to the line of scrimmage and have more time to make adjustments. The simplified terminology makes it quicker."
Kalil was quick to make headlines last year when he predicted the Panthers would win the Super Bowl in a newspaper advertisement.
There are no ads from Kalil this year, but he remains confident in his team's ability in 2013.
"I get teased a lot about my ad from some of the people in the media, but I feel the same way about this team this year that I did last year," Kalil said. "It's one thing to hope to win, it's another thing to expect to win. I expect this team to win games.
"Now saying that and doing that are two different things. We have to make sure that we do a good job of executing."
HARDY BACK FOR MORE: Defensive end Greg Hardy had a breakthrough season in 2012, recording a career-high 11 sacks.
He's eager to build on that individual success and is excited for the Panthers' fresh start in 2013.
"I'm glad to be back here, man. I've been sitting around waiting. This is what I do," Hardy said. "I feel like we have a lot of good people around, some new coaches, some changes. Everything is new and fresh. I feel like we ended good last year, and we are going to be on a roll. I'm looking forward to seeing how we are going to put everything together."
While he wishes he could start adding to his 2013 sack total as soon as possible, Hardy also values the process that is training camp.
"You've all seen Remember the Titans. This is where it goes down," Hardy said. "You bang here so you don't have to in practice during the season. You get all the kinks out, you work through things and just figure things out in camp. I feel like it's a stepping stone."
GETZ HONORS JON RICHARDSON: What's it like to walk 75 miles from Charlotte to Spartanburg?
Panthers facility manager Matthew Getz knows. He's made the trek four times.
And with the recent passing of Jon Richardson, the son of Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson, completing the grueling walk had special meaning this time around.
Richardson challenged the Panthers staff in 2008 to walk around Bank of America Stadium a distance equivalent to the Charlotte-to-Spartanburg trek.
"The intent was to get people back on those New Year's resolutions that had waned and do a little bit of exercise," Getz said upon reaching Wofford College a little more than 20 hours after he started.
Rather than walking laps at the stadium, Getz decided to get on the road and actually complete the walk from city to city.
And on Friday, he did what he could to honor Richardson's memory.
"Those last couple miles," he said, "it takes everything you've got to keep your legs under you.
"I keep saying this will be my last one ever. That would be fitting if it was – in reminiscence of Jon starting it."