The Panthers on Monday made a third move since the start of training camp to address problems at defensive tackle, trading for Tank Tyler. Carolina dealt a 2010 fifth-round draft pick to the Chiefs for the 24-year-old Tyler, in his third year out of N.C. State. Carolina on Tuesday released defensive tackle Antwon Burton to make room for Tyler, who is expected to split snaps with Hollis Thomas (signed as a free agent Oct. 1), Damione Lewis and Nick Hayden.
The 6-foot-2, 306-pound Tyler, a Fayetteville native, is excited about retunring to his home state and playing again in a 4-3 defense. He lined up in a 4-3 for his first two seasons in Kansas City, but moved to nose tackle when the Chiefs switched to a 3-4 this season.
CSR spoke to Tyler, whose real name is DeMarcus, Wednesday afternoon at his locker. The 2002 Shrine Bowl starter and aspiring music manager was in good spirits...
Tyler is "extra happy to be back" in North Carolina, he says. He had been surprised when Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli met with him Monday and told him he had been traded. Kansas City used a third-round pick to get him. He started all 16 games last season, plus the first two games this year. He was benched for the last four games, but still has registered 22 total tackles this season.
His heart dropped when Pioli told him he had been traded, he said Wednesday. Then when he heard where he was going, he was thrilled.
"I wasn't playing (hardly) at all" in Kansas City, he said. "I just wanted the opportunity to play some football...I'm blessed to be back home."
"I'm comfortable (in the 4-3)," he added. "This is my natural defense. I've played this my whole life. I really like this (Carolina) defense."
Tyler says he prefers the 4-3 because, with four down linemen, he has more freedom to attack the ballcarrier. (3-4 defenses typically rely on defensive linemen to occupy offensive linemen so the linebackers can make plays). He consider himself more of a run-stopper than pass rusher (he has no career sacks).
Playing in the 3-4 was a bad fit for Tyler, according to reports out of Kansas City. One report said Chiefs officials thought he was "not mean enough, quick enough or sharp enough" to be a starting nose tackle.
"I think they need to come back and watch the film," he responded Wednesday. "I'm not a cocky guy. I'm not going to say I was the best at it...I think I did well when I was in that position."
Tyler is not sure of his role in Carolina yet, he said. He expects to work at both defensive tackle spots and hopes to play a lot more this season, but he's not even sure if he will be active Sunday against Buffalo. He did add: "They told me they're looking for me to play right away."
(Longterm, Tyler figures to get every chance to become a regular in Carolina. He's young, cheap and healthy. And, although Tyler says he is not under contract for next season, with the likelihood of an uncapped year coming in 2010, he would not be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason).
Tyler certainly hopes to play Sunday. He expects several family members to attend the game, along with former N.C. State teammate Martrel Brown. Former Wolfpack teammate John McCargo is expected to play for the Bills at defensive tackle.
They will be in the stadium where Tyler watched his first live NFL game. As a high school student, he attended a Panthers-Saints game (he's not sure what year it was).
But that nugget is probably the least interesting thing about Tyler. Here's something far more interesting: That's a link to "Welcome to the Carter," a song that Tyler says he wrote, produced and rapped on his own about N.C. State football. ("Carter" is Carter-Finley Stadium). It sounds about as good as any southern hip-hop track.
Tyler doesn't have any raps about the Panthers yet, but he does run a small record label. He is producing two unreleased albums, he says, and manages a 13-year-old female pop/rock singer. That work could be his post-football career.
"You've got to lean back on something," Tyler says. But, he added, "It'll never get in the way of football."