Brayton hopes stability equals success

Tyler Brayton came to Carolina as a free agent hoping a change of scenery would jumpstart his career. After five subpar seasons in Oakland, Brayton signed with Carolina this offseason. He opened minicamp working as the starting left defensive end with Julius Peppers moving over to the right side. Now Brayton hopes to stay there. He's all about stability right now.

Since being selected by the Oakland Raiders in 2003 with the last pick of the first round, Brayton has been moved more than a queen in a chess game. And in five seasons he clearly hasn't put up the numbers many scouts thought he would.

Who exactly is at fault remains open to some debate.

Although there are those who believe the 6-foot-6, 280-pound Brayton simply hasn't played well, others feel like his career has been derailed by the Raiders' decision to move him to outside linebacker after his rookie season.

The Raiders drafted him to play defensive end, but soon afterward owner Al Davis and some others got it in their head that Brayton could be the next Ted Hendricks, a tall outside linebacker who could rush the passer and cover backs coming out of backfield.

So they moved him after just one season in the league. That switch failed miserably.

After two seasons, Brayton moved back to defensive end and started 13 games but failed to make a sack. He played some last season at defensive tackle, another unfamiliar position.

It came as little surprise to anyone in Oakland that Brayton quickly set about exchanging a silver and black uniform for any other NFL uniform when he became a free agent in March.

He signed with the Panthers, who have guaranteed him that linebacker is not in his future.

He spent most of the team's minicamp weekend with a smile on his face, seemingly comfortable with getting a second chance to prove himself.

"D-line, it's the same fundamentals whether you're on the inside or the outside," Brayton said. "But when you go out to linebacker, that's a whole new world. As long as I'm playing on the D-line somewhere, I'm good."

Although Brayton could be bitter about the Raiders' decision, he's clearly not. A prideful player, Brayton takes as much blame for the failed experiment at outside linebacker as the team that put him there.

"I'm not going to sit here and make excuses for myself and say that messed me up," Brayton said. "It was a challenge to go out and learn outside linebacker and then to be moved to defensive tackle. Overall it helped me be a better defensive football player."

Although he comes to Carolina looking to jumpstart his career, Brayton knows he'll be under some pressure.

He'll replace a Carolina fan favorite in Mike Rucker. And he's also expected to get pushed for playing time by youngsters Charles Johnson and Stanley McClover.

But so far, so good.

"He's a guy that came into the league as a high draft pick and played at a variety of positions," coach John Fox said. "He's played outside linebacker; he's played defensive end; he's played some defensive tackle in pass-rush situations. He's a guy that we thought had a lot to prove and he's worked that way. Hopefully, he'll get some good snaps for us."

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