Panthers will give top pick Kuechly a look at WLB

Associated Press Modified: May 11, 2012 at 6:46 pm •  Published: May 11, 2012
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"You have to prove what you can do."

The Panthers have already seen the proof on tape — and they're sold.

That's why they took less than two minutes to call Kuechly's name on draft night even though they may have had more pressing needs at defensive end and cornerback.

"He's just a solid, smart, instinctive football player," general manager Marty Hurney said.

The Panthers put Kuechly's football intelligence to the test during his first day on the practice field, working him both at weak side and middle linebacker.

Rivera said he handled it well, just as he expected.

"He looked good," Rivera said. "We put some pressure on him to learn both positions, but we think he's that kind of football player and that kind of athlete that can handle it. It will be interesting to see how he meshes with the rest of the guys on defense."

The biggest adjustment for Kuechly on Friday — outside of getting used to wearing an NFL required black facemask shield instead of a red one like he wore at Boston College — was adjusting to the speed of the game. That will only get tougher once the veteran players like Cam Newton, DeAngelo Williams and Steve Smith join practice at OTAs later this month.

Friday's practice was made up solely of rookies and first-year players without an accrued NFL season.

In the meantime, Kuechly will continue to practice the only way he knows how -- as hard as he can.

"You have to come in and make an impact," Kuechly said. "I'm excited and I want to play. If you don't say you want to play then I think there is something wrong with you. So I want to come in and play and have a good season."

As for his jersey, Kuechly said he didn't request one from the equipment staff.

He was simply given one.

"I was like, 'Great, I got a jersey. I'm not picky,'" he said.

Rivera laughed when asked if Kuechly will have a hard time living up to his reputation as a player.

"There's no legacy for him to worry about there, so he'll be fine," Rivera said.