CHARLOTTE – The offensive line brotherhood takes on a whole new meaning when you're actually playing alongside your sibling.
That's something center Ryan Kalil will get to experience now that his younger brother Matt is set to become the Panthers' new left tackle.
"I tried to stay back and let him handle this and make the decision on his own," Ryan said in a phone interview. "Obviously, I expressed my position and why I thought he would benefit from coming to Carolina and playing with me.
"This was never a situation of me campaigning to play with my brother just because it sounds cool. I would never champion my brother to come to Carolina if I didn't think he would make us a better team. If there is any selfish aspect to this, it's about helping my family, but not the Kalils as much as helping the Panthers family. At the end of the day, we'll have to go prove that. I know that. Matt knows that. Especially coming off last season, our entire unit knows that."
Ryan, a 10-year veteran and five-time Pro Bowler, has established himself as one of the best centers in the NFL. Matt, who entered the league as the fourth overall pick by the Vikings in 2012, is trying to prove he can be a top-flight left tackle after a hip injury wiped out almost all of his 2016 season.
"I keep tabs on my brother and I think very highly of his play," Ryan said. "The thing fans will have to battle with is sort of reality versus perception with my brother. I've been in seasons where the year hasn't gone so great and everybody gets judged based on that.
"The thing about Matt is he's a very talented tackle who is an incredible athlete. Long-arm, big-bodied offensive tackle, and he has all the intangibles."
A 6-foot-7, 317-pounder with rare athleticism, Matt has obvious tools to work with. And longtime offensive line coach John Matsko could be just the man to help put those tools to use.
"I know in speaking with him and trying to persuade him this way, one of the biggest factors in him wanting to come to Carolina wasn't his brother, but the chance to play for Coach Matsko," Ryan said. "He had heard me speak so highly of him, and he was very impressed with the players he's seen go from average to good and good to great under Coach Matsko. I think at this point in his career, with him wanting to take that next step and be that caliber player we all know he can be, I think it was an easy decision to come to Carolina. Obviously, playing with his brother is a bonus."
The Panthers and the Kalils believe banding the brothers together will create an environment for Matt to thrive.
"We've always been competitive in nature, as brothers are," Ryan said. "It's a great dynamic for the two of us to push each other to be better players for the Panthers.
"It'll be a lot of fun. I think there is a lot of pressure on us as brothers being on the same team, and that's fine. I think we respond well to that."
Ryan, a universally respected four-time team captain, won't hesitate to push Matt. And that has nothing to do with the bloodlines they share.
"If I start getting vocal with him, I have to make sure he knows that it's not me being big brother. That's just how I am and how I operate," Ryan explained.
Teammates, coaches and fans have become very familiar with Ryan over the years. Now everyone is eager to see how the younger brother compares.
"I'm going to be interested to see what my teammates think of our personalities," Ryan said. "We have a similar sense of humor. Obviously he's not as funny as me, or as good-looking, or as charming, or as handsome."
And then, there is the beard, or lack thereof, described in a way that only Ryan can.
"The one thing that's been hard in our relationship for him to get over is the jealousy he has for my beard versus his," Ryan said. "I definitely have the most well-groomed beard between the two of us, and that comes with years of experience. He's sort of been on-and-off with his, so he's not a truly committed beard man. He hasn't had a true committed beard lifestyle, which is disappointing. I don't want to call him a beard fraud, but it's a commitment, and he's going to have to prove to me and many of the fans who are long-time beard growers that he's committed to the beard and it's not just a seasonal, once-in-a-while thing.
"I think that will translate to his commitment to the team."