SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) — The Panthers released veteran offensive lineman Geoff Hangartner on Thursday, paving the way for Garry Williams to take over as the starting right guard.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said after Thursday's practice the move was made so the team to could focus on developing its young guards — particularly Williams and rookie Edmund Kugbila.
The move was a bit surprising considering Hangartner had been running with the first team at camp, and Kugbila, the player Carolina drafted to eventually replace him, has missed the majority of training camp with a pulled hamstring after sitting out OTAs with a knee injury.
But Rivera said the team really likes Williams, who started nine games last year at right guard after a season-ending injury to Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil prompted the team to shift Hangartner to center.
Williams ran with the first team on Thursday, while Kugbila remained out of action.
"We have Kugbila who is in the wings and Garry Williams who has done a really nice job and has had a nice spring in OTAs," Rivera said. "We're excited about what Garry can bring to the table."
Rivera said the Panthers had planned on Williams being their starting guard in 2011 before he broke his ankle in the preseason and was sidelined for the season.
"He seems to be back in shape playing the way he did when we thought he could be a starting guard," Rivera said of Williams, who has started 20 games in four seasons.
Rivera said the team has no plans to bring in a veteran free agent guard from outside the organization to compete for a starting job.
"We have a young group of guards that is pretty exciting," Rivera said.