Every center in football has one job: snap the ball cleanly to his quarterback and then pick up his blocking assignment. But Carolina Panthers center Ryan Kalil says he has decided he has a more important role on the team.
"I am the only one who can keep the ball out of Jake Delhomme's hands," says Kalil. "And if we can keep the ball out of Jake Delhomme's hands, this team can be successful."
Delhomme had six turnovers in Carolina's home playoff loss last January to the Arizona Cardinals. He then turned the ball over five more times in Carolina's opener this season and has had three more interceptions in two additional losses as Carolina has fallen to 0-3.
"Maybe they're not all Jake's fault," said Kalil. "But all I know is that I snap the ball to him, block for a second or two, look up and the other team has the ball. I mean, there's a pretty consistent element to all of these turnovers: me giving the ball to Jake Delhomme."
And it's a fact that has been tearing Kalil apart inside.
"I know people who have struggled with addiction," he says. "More often than not, they got to where they are because someone along the way enabled them. I am enabling Jake by snapping him the ball. If I stop doing that, he can get better. And we can win again. I am glad I have finally come to this realization. The power is in my hands."
While it will be on Kalil to follow through on his pledge to keep the ball away from his quarterback, he says he has a full network of support to fall back on.
"Other guys on the teams have been encouraging me to do this for weeks," he says. "Years even, when it comes to Steve Smith."
Head coach John Fox is also on-board with the plan, and thinks it will have positive results.
"Sure, we are going to get constant delay of game penalties," he said. "And that's not ideal. But I'll take being backed way up on my own side of the field over throwing interceptions that are returned for six points. I'll choose that every day. It's not even a hard decision."