With the Panthers hopeful that left tackle Michael Oher will return from the concussion protocol this week, Mike Remmers could return to his customary spot on the right side.
Remmers would argue that anywhere in the starting lineup qualifies as his spot.
He is the epitome of what NFL folks call “grinders” – unheralded players and coaches whose climb to the top of the profession is marked as much by sweat equity as pure talent.
Oher was a star before becoming a first-round pick of the Ravens in 2009 because of “The Blind Side,” the best-selling book that chronicled his rags-to-riches story that later became a movie.
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Remmers’ back story is much less glamorous.
He walked on at Oregon State before becoming a starter and earning a scholarship. He was an undrafted NFL free agent who played for five teams before sticking with the Panthers.
“It’s kind of been an uphill battle. But that’s always been my story,” Remmers said recently. “I always pride myself in being a guy who’s achieved more than what most people would think about. So I just try to keep improving every day here. And that’s how the NFL is. If you want to keep your job, you’ve got to keep getting better.”
Given how long it took Remmers to earn an every-down spot, he’s serious about keeping it.
He said he was the only offensive starter who played all 1,056 snaps during the Panthers’ Super Bowl season in 2015.
He’s logged 406 of the 408 offensive snaps this season, coming out for single plays against San Francisco in Week 2 (to be checked for a stinger) and last week at New Orleans (for “a little scare” with his knee).
Remmers said his knee feels great. He was less enthusiastic about coming out of the game against the 49ers last month.
“Last year I didn’t miss any, so I was really upset the first time I went out,” he said.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, the Bears’ second-round pick in 1984, said “guys that play above what people perceive them” are valuable in a locker room.
“Because those guys work very, very hard and they do some really good things,” Rivera said “They’re exciting guys to have on your team because they’re going to put it all on the line and guys rally around guys like that.”
Remmers, 27, has had his struggles over the past eight months, starting with a Super Bowl 50 matchup with Von Miller. The Broncos’ outside linebacker beat him twice for strip-sacks on Cam Newton that resulted in 15 points, the difference in Denver’s 24-10 victory.
Remmers had a tough time adjusting to the left side in Oher’s absence. In his first start at left tackle at Atlanta, he had three penalties in a four-play stretch.
Remmers, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season, said the experience on the left side will help him down the road if he’s asked to switch sides again.
Rivera has said Oher has progressed in the concussion protocol, but it’s unclear whether he’ll be ready for this weekend’s game against Arizona. Whenever Oher comes back, Rivera said the right tackle job will remain Remmers’ despite the solid play of second-year tackle Daryl Williams.
Remmers said the idea that the league’s top pass rushers are lined up against the left tackles is no longer the case.
“There’s not a team on anyone’s schedule that’s got someone that’s easy. Everyone’s extremely difficult to block,” he said. “It’s the NFL. You’ve got to be ready either side.”
Fans and critics might argue whether Remmers was ready for the left side. The fact that he was willing to try wouldn’t surprise the team’s other offensive linemen.
“Being here every single day and seeing how hard all my teammates work, I just don’t want to let anyone down,” Remmers said. “I want to do the best I possibly can out there. If I’ve got to play through some things, I just want to be on the field and do whatever I can to help the team win.”