The Kyle Love Redemption Tour will make its next stop this weekend when the Carolina Panthers visit Jacksonville.
Love’s football career nearly ended two years ago after New England cut Love after he developed Type 2 diabetes. He bounced around from Jacksonville to Kansas City, then back to the Jaguars, appearing in one regular-season game over the past two seasons.
But with Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei looking doubtful for Sunday’s game with a foot injury, Love is expected to make his first start since 2012 with the Patriots.
That it comes against one of the teams that gave up on him makes it more special for Love.
“This is a big one for me,” he said after Wednesday’s practice. “It’s kind of one of those games that you want to show people what you missed out on. I want to go out there and play the best that I can.”
The Panthers, Love, a 6-2, 315-pounder, last December, and he was inactive for the final two regular-season games. He had two tackles in the playoff loss to Seattle, and won a roster spot this summer after Lotulelei was injured during the first week of training camp.
“It means a lot (as) a guy that’s been sitting home practically for two years,” Love said. “I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder, not being a drafted guy and just basically having to bring it in from last guy in. It’s kind of the same situation. A lot of people were counting me out. You can’t think like that.”
Love started 25 games in three years with New England after the Patriots signed him as an undrafted free agent. He was in the starting lineup for the Super Bowl loss to the Giants after the 2011 season.
But nine months after signing an extension with the Patriots, they cut him.
Love didn’t want to talk about the Patriots’ Deflategate controversy, which has led to claims – including one by an unnamed Panthers source in an ESPN story – that the Patriots also spied on opponents before Super Bowls.
He also was mum on the topic before the Panthers played an exhibition game against the Patriots last month.
Love said his focus is with the Panthers. After making the team, he ditched his No. 61 for a number (93) more befitting a defensive lineman.
“I had to get rid of that ugly number,” Love said. “I just told (backup quarterback Derek Anderson) earlier, ‘I was looking like an offensive lineman out there.’ I already have a big belly, so it just looks even worse.”