Head coach Ron Rivera wasn’t ready to say on Thursday whether his veteran Pro Bowl center will play Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
But Ryan Kalil, who has only played five quarters this season while dealing with a neck injury, flat-out expects to start.
Kalil confirmed this in the locker room after he was a full participant in practice for a second consecutive day. He added that further information about his injury was all personal, and would not be disclosed.
His return comes at an opportune time for the Panthers, as steady backup Tyler Larsen has been unable to practice because of a foot injury.
Larsen said Wednesday that him getting withheld from practice is mostly precautionary, which makes sense if Carolina faces a situation like it did in Chicago, when Kalil re-aggravated his neck injury after starting the game, and had to leave. Behind Larsen is Greg Van Roten, who played a few snaps this season when Larsen originally hurt his foot.
Rivera said Kalil has been lobbying hard to return to the game. And the rehabilitation process, for the veteran, was trying.
“It’s been frustrating. Just frustrating,” Kalil said. “Because you work hard all offseason, rehabbing the shoulder, it’s frustrating. You get tired of rehabbing. You get itching to play the game that you love and played your whole life, and it’s just...The game doesn’t care, you know? It will take it from you very quickly.
“And so it’s frustrating to sit back. But I’ve been really proud of the guys who played, and really proud of the way Tyler (Larsen) has played, so just excited to get back.”
Kalil said the thought of being in the final years of his career has crossed his mind, but not due to the injury. He is signed with the Panthers through 2018.
“I think it’s just being in year 11,” he said. “It’s not how you want to finish out your career. But no immediate thoughts of retiring. I still think I have a lot of good football left in me and I just have to get out there and prove it.”