CHARLOTTE – There isn't much sympathy for the injured in the NFL.
Players and coaches instantaneously preach the "next man up" mantra, while opposing teams are quick to formulate ways to exploit the incoming replacement. That's the harsh reality.
But that's not to say the Panthers weren't pained when they learned All-Pro center Ryan Kalil was going to miss the rest of the season with a foot injury.
"When we got the news," said offensive lineman Byron Bell, "we were all heartbroken."
"I was bummed for him," said offensive lineman Geoff Hangartner. "Ryan was down in the dumps and feeling bad about being hurt and missing the season. He's a great player, a great friend, a great leader. We'll miss him greatly."
But the Dallas Cowboys -- and the remaining teams on Carolina's schedule -- won't feel sorry for the Panthers O-line.
"We have to move forward," Bell said. "We just have to make the adjustments and roll."
Hangartner, who has started at right guard in all five games this season, will take over for Kalil at center. The eight-year veteran is no stranger to the center position, with 47 career starts on his resume. He served as a center for the Buffalo Bills from 2009-10.
"It makes it easier for me since I have a lot of experience playing center," Hangartner said. "That being said, I haven't played center for a couple years, so hopefully, I can get those growing pains out in practice this week and be good to go."
Hangartner now has two new elements added to his job description. As the center, he'll be responsible for communicating the calls at the line of scrimmage and snapping the ball to quarterback Cam Newton.
"It's a little bit different technique – you've got the ball in your hand every play, you have to snap the ball before you move," Hangartner said. "I'll have a little more responsibility for the calls but I know them and I should be OK making them."
Hangartner is counting on his prior experience, and Kalil's expertise to make the mid-season transition as smooth as possible.
"I'll talk to Ryan before and after every game," Hangartner said. "I'll be asking if he has any pointers for me and we'll be in constant contact."
The Panthers are also considering moving Bell from right tackle to Hangartner's vacated right guard spot.
"We're looking at our different options," head coach Ron Rivera said.
All 16 of Bell's career starts have come at tackle, and he most recently played guard in high school.
"Wherever I'm needed I'll play, no complaints," Bell said.
If Bell slides over to right guard, the final piece of the offensive line puzzle comes at right tackle, where Garry Williams would likely step in. Williams started at right tackle in Week 3 against the New York Giants when Bell was inactive due to an ankle injury and the final 11 games of the 2010 season.
"We're shuffling guys around and we have to get focused," Bell said. "We have to play well and execute up front. It's a challenge, but we're capable of it."