|LB Beason ready to play at any position|
|Recovered from Achilles, he’ll start at middle linebacker|
|Published Thursday, June 14, 2012 7:03 am|
Carolina Panthers three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jon Beason is anxious to get back on the football field this season, even if that means leaving the position he loves to play.
|Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason is eager to return to the field after missing all but one game last season due to a torn Achilles. “I feel ready to play four quarters of football if I had to,” he said. “We have minicamp and I’m going to work in slowly. So it’s baby steps right now.”|
Beason is recovering well after surgery to repair a torn Achilles tendon last September, a devastating injury to a player in top physical condition who hadn’t missed a game in his previous four seasons. He’s been working solely in individual drills the past three weeks of organized team activities as a precautionary measure, but has been given medical clearance to participate in team drills this week at minicamp.
“I feel ready to play four quarters of football if I had to,” Beason said. “We have minicamp and I’m going to work in slowly. So it’s baby steps right now.”
Beason said his Achilles feels great right now, but quickly adds “I haven’t really done anything yet.”
He’s anxious to test it out.
The big question for Beason this season is not if he plays, but where he’ll play.
Carolina drafted Luke Kuechly from Boston College with the ninth overall pick and, like Beason, his most comfortable position is middle linebacker.
Beason was Carolina’s starting middle linebacker for most of four seasons from 2007-10, beginning in the fifth game of his rookie year. The lone exception came in 2010 when he an injury to weak side linebacker Thomas Davis necessitated he move outside.
It wasn’t a complete failure by any means, but Beason clearly didn’t look comfortable there. His stats dropped off significantly and so did the big plays.
Beason never complained about the move, but admitted afterward he felt a little handcuffed being unable to roam from sideline to sideline as he did when playing the middle. On the outside he was forced to “stay home” and do more reading than reacting.
And that’s not Beason.
For now, Panthers coach Ron Rivera’s plan is to start out with Beason in the middle and have Kuechly compete at weak side linebacker, a move that could mean limited playing time for Davis, who is trying to make it back from three torn ACLs to the same knee. However, Rivera said the team will consider experimenting with different options throughout training camp and the preseason and that nothing’s set in stone.
If Beason does have to move, he’ll do it for the team.
“If that happens I approach it the way I always have when asked to move from safety to fullback or fullback to linebacker, outside to inside or vice versa,” said Beason, who went to Pro Bowls in 2008, ‘09 and ‘10. “I’ve kind of dealt with this situation my whole life. I look at myself as a true football player. I think I can go play offense too.”
He joked that he could play running back alongside DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart but that “we probably don’t need me over there.”
“I think that’s why I’ve been successful at making changes because I approach it the same way and with the same competitive edge,” Beason said. “You just try to do the best that you can with it.”
Beason said he was not upset when the team drafted Kuechly.
After watching him run around in practice and being around him for the past few weeks he realizes why they did.
“I don’t know how it’s all going to unfold, but I understand the draft pick,” Beason said. “I understand the kid was off the charts. So you draft him and it makes your football team better. But there will be pressure on his shoulders too. He has to learn all three positions and we’ll see how it works out.”
Regardless, he said it’s hard not to like the rookie.
“Oh he’s great,” Beason said. “A good young kid and very, very instinctive. Wants to get better. Knows how to prepare. Stays late. He’s a good kid and going to be a great player. He has personality but he’s been a little reserved. He’s starting to come out of his shell and cracking a few jokes. We mess with him but he’s way ahead of the curve for rookies just in terms of his football IQ and how he prepares. He’s going to be successful right away.”
Fans will get a chance to see Beason and Kuechly on the field together for the first time at Thursday’s minicamp practice, which is open to the public. The Panthers will practice inside Bank of America Stadium beginning at 11:30 a.m. and admission is free.
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