Byron Bell will face the biggest challenge of his career this year when the Panthers hope he can move to the left side of the line and fill the considerable void left by Jordan Gross, who retired earlier this year. It's a return to a position Bell played in college, but also means he'll be seeing the best pass rushers the league has to offer on a regular basis.
David Newton of ESPN ran a profile on Bell who's shed weight since the close of last season, largely by cutting out fried foods. It's his hope he can be at 315 pounds by the time training camp opens, which would be a 30 pound drop for the offensive lineman.
Becoming lighter will certainly help, as will returning to his dominant side -- but the covering criticism with a thin veil of confidence does nothing to convince anyone.
"I don't read none of that," Bell said. "I get people who tell me things and I listen to it, but for the most part I'm, 'All right, that's cool.' There's nothing easy about pro football. If anybody could do it, they would come out and do it."
This line has been Bell's go-to since the close of the season. Saying "I'd like to see you do it" is a schoolyard response to a serious question. Fans have a right to be concerned with his ability to play left tackle after being the team's worst offensive lineman last year. That's not anecdotal, it's statistical -- he gave up a team-high 46 pressures last year.
Faith from the front office has been the saving grace of this situation. Dave Gettleman and Ron Rivera believe in Bell, which carries a lot of weight given their collective ability to evaluate talent. The issue stems from the continuing ignorance to any kind of criticism from the offensive lineman.
This is the time of year that players can afford to be retrospective on the season that was. There are things everyone wants to improve on for the upcoming year and meaningful answers from athletes or the front office provide more than reasons why things will get better, they instill faith. Bell is no longer in a position where he can hide from the criticism and it might be nice to get more than "I'd like to see you do it," when there are legitimate concerns on the left side of the line. He's dropping weight for a reason, let's hear what he hopes to achieve.
Gross used to speak about the need for greater consistency, or point to specific things that he struggled with -- now it's time for Bell to get used to doing the same.