Ryan Kalil ready to "empty the tank" for final season


CHARLOTTE – You don't play center for more than a decade in the NFL – earning five Pro Bowl nods along the way – without a ton of hard work and dedication.

Ryan Kalil has always been about those things.

But he's also always been determined to keep football lighthearted and fun.

"I think it's funny to not take things seriously, sometimes," Kalil said after the first practice of mandatory minicamp.

That's Ryan Kalil in a nutshell.

Take this post-practice exchange, for example. 

When asked about an offseason of rehab (which he faced ahead of 2017 following shoulder surgery) versus an offseason of strength training (which he's currently enjoying), Kalil had this to say:

"You only get so much time and you can't make up days – it doesn't work that way. I missed a lot of time to work out, get in shape, get strong and you can't really catch up once the season starts – because then it's about maintaining."

Then the humor came out.

"I feel good and strong," Kalil said. "I feel like I could go into a strongman competition right now."

What event?

"Probably a truck pull. I've got good grip strength. I could pull some ropes," he said. "I've got a strong core – maybe picking up some rocks and moving them."

Then the conversation turned to 2018 being (more than likely) his 12th and final season in the NFL. Again, it started off serious.

"It's probably a good bet I'll be in Manhattan Beach next year," Kalil said. "I never thought I'd play 12 seasons, so every year I sort of treat it like this is possibly the last one. You just don't know, whether it's injuries or guys coming in and out-playing you."

And then…

"The only good thing about playing this long is getting to cut the line on physical day, because it goes by seniority," Kalil said. "There is nothing funnier than coming into a room where a bunch of young guys are waiting for an hour thinking that they're next and then all the sudden the old guy comes in and cuts right in front of them."

As we all know, Kalil's health was no laughing matter last season.

A frustrating neck injury forced the leader of the offensive line to miss 10 games, this after playing just eight games in 2016 due to that aforementioned shoulder injury.

"He's in a situation where having gone through what he's gone through and rehabbed the way he has, this is a good year for him offseason-wise in terms of being involved with everything and looking like he had no residual," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I'm excited to see how he could play for us this year."

Turning serious again, Kalil returned to the topic of his last hurrah.

"I care very much about this organization and the people in it," he said. "As far as it being the last one, obviously I want to empty the tank and not let anybody down on this team that puts a lot of faith in me to do my job. That's where my focus has been. Just blocking and making the right calls."

That right there is also Kalil in a nutshell.

"He really is one of the finest leaders I've been around," Rivera said.