Ovetime for offensive line coach Mike Maser

"You have to circle the wagons and do the best we can with what we've got," Maser said. "We're looking at the wire and trying to find another guy. If we do, fine. If we don't, we'll go to war with the guys we've got."

Carolina Panthers offensive line coach Mike Maser has been working overtime this summer.

Maser's job became a little bit more difficult when starting right tackle Adam Meadows abruptly retired from the team last week, leaving the Panthers with not one, not two, but three unsettled positions less than a week before the preseason opener.

But Maser doesn't seem all that worried.

"I've been there before," Maser said.

In the summer of 2000, while working as offensive line coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Maser watched one right tackle fall after another.

On the first day of camp, the Jaguars lost Pro Bowler Leon Searcy for the year to a torn quadriceps. The following day Zach Wiegert injured his arm, sending him out for several weeks. Maser inserted another player - one who was so obscure he can't even remember his name - and he went down with an ankle injury.

"I'm down to like my sixth tackle and we're only three days into training camp," Maser recalls. "So you can imagine what I was going through then. I was pulling my hair out."

The Jaguars finished 7-9 that season, but the offensive line wasn't the primary problem.

Fred Taylor rushed for more than 1,000 yards that season, including nine straight 100-yard games.

So Maser isn't all that worried about the events that have transpired so far at training camp, even though the Panthers have also lost guard Bruce Nelson for at least six weeks to a hip injury.

"This is really simple compared to that," Maser said. "This is a walk in the park." Well, maybe not.

Maser admitted he still hasn't determined who will start at left guard, right guard or right tackle. That, he said, will be determined within the next week or so.

As of now, it appears Tutan Reyes has a stranglehold on the left guard spot, but the right guard remains up in the air with Rick Tylski making up ground on Doug Brzezinski, even though Tylski has been out of football for the last two seasons.

As for right tackle, journeymen Matt Willig and Melvin Tuten are battling for playing time, but there's a good chance the Panthers will attempt to add another player to that position either through free agency or a trade.

"You have to circle the wagons and do the best we can with what we've got," Maser said. "We're looking at the wire and trying to find another guy. If we do, fine. If we don't, we'll go to war with the guys we've got."

Maser said he's thankful Meadows made up his mind to retire now instead of waiting until closer to the regular season.

At least now the Panthers have time to adjust. "Yeah, we can work on it now," Maser said. "If it happened later we would have to sink or swim with what we have. We can work on these things and get them ironed out. I'm not too concerned about it."

One of the reasons Maser would like to have a starting lineup intact by sometime next week is so the five starters can begin working together and begin to form a bond.

"It's a chemistry experiment in reality," Maser said. "We're putting all of these guys together and trying to figure out who are the best five guys and go from there.

"It's a little bit difficult because the communication situation is a little different. But I think it's a matter of these guys understanding what we're doing and being on the same page and working to together to get the job done. I'm confident we can do that."


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