Before a Thursday night game against the New Orleans Saints last November, Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil was expecting to play through some pain in his shoulder.
Just not this much pain.
Kalil had missed the previous two games with what was initially diagnosed as a torn labrum, an injury that linebacker Luke Kuechly and others told him he could endure and put off surgery until after the season.
“Man, it hurt so bad. And I just remember thinking to myself, ‘Man, I am not as tough as I thought I was,’” Kalil recalled Thursday. “Literally, I couldn’t lift my arm.”
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Kalil played most of the game against the Saints before the pain became too much. It turns out Kalil had not only a torn labrum, but also a torn rotator cuff.
He underwent season-ending surgery a few days later.
Ten months later, Kalil is back in action and will begin his 11th season Sunday at San Francisco. Like quarterback Cam Newton, Kalil played sparingly during the preseason but believes he’s ready to go.
“Surgeries are always tough to come back from,” said Kalil, who had foot surgery in 2012. “Structurally everything’s there. Everything works. It’s just a matter of dealing with pain.”
Kalil, 32, likes what he saw from the offensive line during the preseason, including his younger brother, Matt, at left tackle. The first-team line did not give up a sack in limited action during the first three exhibitions.
“I think we’ve got a good group and, honestly, I really like our depth,” Kalil said. “I think we’ve got a good squad this year and I’m excited to get out there and get working.”