<
>

Panthers DT Kyle Love out to show Jaguars 'what you missed out on'

Defensive tackle Kyle Love will start for the Panthers in the season opener against the Jaguars. Chuck Burton/AP

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – There was no placard above Kyle Love’s locker on Wednesday, but that’s only temporary as the defensive tackle is getting a number change from 61 to 93.

“I had to get rid of that ugly number,’’ Lyle said with a laugh about having a number typically used by offensive linemen. “I already have a big belly, so it just made things worse.’’

Love’s ultimate goal is to make his name recognizable – again.

He’s on the right track, getting the start for Sunday’s opener at Jacksonville with 2013 first-round pick Star Lotulelei doubtful with a foot injury.

“It means a lot,’’ Love said of starting. “A guy that has been sitting at home practically for two years, so it means a lot to be able to come in and contribute to this team and do it in a big way.’’

Lyle started a combined 24 regular-season games for the New England Patriots in 2011 and 2012. He was a starter in the Super Bowl following the 2011 season.

Prior to the 2012 season he signed a two-year extension with a maximum value of $3.09 million. Then he developed Type 2 diabetes and was cut nine months later.

Since then, Love has been a football vagabond, going from Jacksonville to Kansas City to Jacksonville and back to Kansas City before being signed by the Panthers in mid-December.

Having the opportunity to start against the Jaguars and the coach that released him in 2013 makes this chance mean even more.

“This is a big one for me,’’ Love said. “Gus Bradley was one of my guys. It’s kind of one of those games where you want to show people what you missed out on.’’

Love admittedly has a chip on his shoulder. He has had one since going undrafted out of Mississippi State in 2010.

He has been a good fit in Carolina’s four-man rotation at tackle with Lotulelei out. He started the third preseason game against the Patriots and played a role in holding Tom Brady and company to 37 yards until an 80-yard drive just before halftime.

That was his first vindication game.

“I’ve always played with a chip on my shoulder, not being a drafted guy, just basically having to bring it in from the last guy in,’’ Love said. “It’s kind of the same situation. A lot of these people have counted me out. You can’t think like that.

“You’ve just got to keep on proving people wrong, and that’s what I continue to do at a high level.’’