EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Before he starts his own film study each week, Ryan Kalil turns on the video of the Minnesota Vikings' game, to see how his little brother did. It's typically provided him a way to check in with Matt Kalil, but this year, there's been a little more urgency in the process.
The Carolina Panthers center talks with his younger brother after every game. He's heard the frustration in Matt Kalil's voice about the way he's played this year and the criticism he's received. So when he turns on the Vikings video, Ryan Kalil isn't just checking in on his brother; he's trying to help him find a solution.
"I've watched him do a lot of good things," Ryan Kalil said. "We've played a lot of same opponents that they play in the division this year, so we've watched a lot of Vikings film this year. And he's gotten highlighted a bunch: 'We've got to do this. Look at this left tackle. We've got to do this.' And that's exciting. I'm proud to be able to see that and be a part of that and be associated with him. So he does a lot of good things.
"I think late in the game, being down, a lot of passing situations, it's hard. And it's not ever one thing that happens. Not making excuses for him; at the end of the day that's your job. You have to block, but I think the biggest thing I'll say about Matt is he works hard. I know he's very talented. I know the knee thing does bother him, and I think he'll be fine. I think he's going to be a good player for a long time."
The four-time Pro Bowl center's conference call with Twin Cities reporters on Wednesday was largely an analysis, and at times a defense, of his younger brother, leading into Sunday's game in Minneapolis between the Panthers and Vikings. Matt Kalil has struggled on the field this season and weathered heavy criticism off of it. Things seemed to come to a head Sunday when Matt Kalil was penalized three times in a loss to the Green Bay Packers and knocked the hat off a fan who was heckling him outside TCF Bank Stadium after the game. Video of the incident surfaced on Deadspin on Monday morning, and Matt Kalil said he shouldn't have responded to the fan, adding, "That guy's not worth my time."
Matt Kalil had said he was on the phone with his father Frank during the exchange with the heckler; Ryan Kalil offered his father's perspective on it on Wednesday before sharing some humorous advice about how he'd have handled the situation.
" I asked my dad if he heard what happened," Ryan Kalil said. "He said, 'Yeah, I heard the whole thing.' He said, 'It was a really ugly deal.' The guy called him over, said he was a big fan, asked for his autograph. He went over there and then he started saying some pretty ugly stuff to him. So I think my brother just kind of reacted. It's probably my fault for picking on him when he was little. Flipping his hat, I think that was the go-to move for me.
"I was a little disappointed. I actually would have liked him to go with the, 'You spilled something on your shirt' and then throw the finger up and hit him in the chin. I think that would have been a funnier move."
Ryan Kalil said his entire family will be in Minnesota this weekend for the game, and if anything, he hopes the opportunity for Matt Kalil to see his nieces and nephew will provide a pick-me-up.
The big brother, still looking out for the younger one, believes he'll be fine in the end.
"The thing that hurts them is just everybody telling him he's letting the team down, and that's not what he wants to hear," Ryan Kalil said. "I don't think he's the problem with Minnesota not having a better record. I don't. I think there's a lot of different things that go into a season not being as good as you want it to go, and we're dealing with the same kind of stuff here. I don't think it's one person. But that's easy coming from me. It's one thing when you're hearing it every day. And even if you turn off the Twitter and you don't read the articles, you know what the conversation is, just based off the questions you're being asked daily, you know? It's frustrating. I think he's strong, though. I don't think he's gone in the tank. I don't think anything like that. I think he'll be fine. I think it's just learning experience."