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Friday, April 27, 2012
Inside or out for Luke Kuechly?

By Pat Yasinskas

There’s a big question now that the Carolina Panthers have used their first-round pick on linebacker Luke Kuechly.

Where does he play?

General manager Marty Hurney and coach Ron Rivera aren’t giving any hints if Kuechly will play inside, where he spent most of his college career, or if he’ll move to the outside. If you thought Kuechly would tip his hand right away, think again.

Kuechly just finished meeting with the Charlotte media and wouldn’t provide anything real strong about how he’ll fit in with an existing corps of linebackers that includes Jon Beason, Thomas Davis and James Anderson.

“Right now, we’re just trying to see and go in with an open mind-set,’’ Kuechly said. “We’ve got to figure out what’s going to happen. All three positions are going to be a challenge moving forward. I’ve got to pick up on some new things, but I’m excited to see what happens.’’

Here’s the deal -- this thing will sort itself out naturally. You can bet the Panthers won’t put Kuechly with the first team when they run their first minicamp plays. They just don’t work that way.

The real test will come as training camp progresses and that will depend on some things beyond Kuechly. Beason, who has spent most of his career inside, and Davis, who has spent most of his career on the outside, both are coming off major injuries and the Panthers will be watching them as closely as they’re watching Kuechly. Davis is coming off his third ACL surgery and he comes with no guarantees.

Beason has played a little on the outside in the past and there’s no doubt he can swing back there. Kuechly also has the speed to move outside.

The Panthers will go to camp and let this thing play out. But I think it’s pretty safe to say Kuechly will be in the starting lineup -- at one spot or another -- on opening day.

You don’t use a top-10 pick on a guy to sit him on the bench.