Carolina Panthers

Walker adds depth at tackle

SPARTANBURG -- The Carolina Panthers added to their depth at tackle Monday, signing former Tampa Bay starter and frequent foe Kenyatta Walker.

Walker, a former first-round pick, was perhaps best known to local fans for his scraps with Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers, a concern the team had to consider before signing him.

"People are going to ask about that, but players are competitive people," general manager Marty Hurney said. "When you're on the same side, your number-one goal is to win games. Our job is to add players to help toward that goal."

The feud between Peppers and Walker boiled over during the first game of the series in 2003. During that 12-9 Panthers overtime win, Walker was flagged twice for holding and once for illegal hands to the face, enraging Peppers with what teammates described as cheap play. Peppers had to be restrained by defensive tackle Kris Jenkins to keep him from going after Walker after he was punched in the head.

"He took some shots at me," Peppers said following the game. "I don't know if anybody saw it, but he took some shots. Little stuff like that I'll look over. But at some point, it just gets to you."

Jenkins took it a step further following the November meeting, calling Walker "garbage" and "horrible."

"When you have to hit somebody's facemask every play because you cannot lock people fundamentally by yourself, you are supposed to be in the CFL," Jenkins said. "You aren't supposed to be in the league. He was doing all that talking before, talking about Pepp being sorry and (Mike) Rucker being sorry. The last time I checked both of their contracts weigh a whole lot more than his does."

Walker was also involved (along with receiver Keenan McCardell) in a chop block during the first 2003 game which caused a season-ending knee injury to former Panthers defensive end Kavika Pittman.

"I'm upset about it, yes," Panthers coach John Fox said the day after.

Personality issues aside, the addition of Walker lends some credibility to an offensive line which was much deeper inside than out.

The 28-year-old Walker started 73 games in six years for Tampa Bay, but finished last year on injured reserve because of a knee injury. The Panthers worked him out prior to camp, but waited to sign him to see how their young players developed.

The previous backup tackles were Rashad Butler on the left and Evan Mathis on the right, with Mathis switching after playing guard the last two seasons. Butler has struggled in practices and games, looking like a disappointment after being chosen in the third round of the 2006 draft.

• LOOKING AHEAD: The Panthers began planning for the first two weeks of the regular season. Since starting right guard Jeremy Bridges will miss the first two games because of a team suspension, the Panthers began working through contingency plans.

They had Bridges working at the same position with the second team, while starting center Justin Hartwig moved into Bridges' spot and rookie Ryan Kalil worked as the first center. Geoff Hangartner, who typically backs up at left guard, was snapping with the second team, while D'Anthony Batiste moved from right guard to left.

The Panthers know about scrambling the line early. Last year, left tackle Travelle Wharton and Hartwig were lost for the season in the opener, causing Jordan Gross to swap sides as part of a 60 percent line turnover after one game.

"We know we're not going to have Bridges for the first two games, so we've got to figure out what the center and right guard spots are going to look like," Gross said. "And now's a better time to do it than the week of. Last year when Travelle got hurt, it kind of hit us as a shock. We really didn't have a good plan. I hadn't played any left tackle since 2004.

"We're just going to try, this whole camp, to try guys in other positions so if guys do get hurt, we're protected."

Bridges was suspended after his arrest the day before camp. He was charged with waving a gun at a female employee of a strip club, a charge his attorney has denied and said Bridges would plead not guilty to.

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