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Original Issue

Calling Card For the Panthers' Jeff Mitchell and other NFL centers, making adjustments at the line is anything but a snap

The center makes the line calls for his fellow blockers before
each snap, and for the Carolina Panthers that responsibility
belongs to Jeff Mitchell, who made his 83rd NFL start on Sunday.
What follows is Mitchell's account of his thought process as he
surveys the defense before setting the Carolina offense in

"Once we break the huddle, I'm visualizing the play that has been
called. Then I'm breaking down our protection: I'm thinking about
whether the running back is to my left or if the tight end is to
my right, making sure I know which side of the formation is
overloaded. If we're in our base offense, I'm counting the people
in front of me, looking for the positioning of the middle
linebacker and then finding the strong-and weakside backers. If
we're in a three-receiver formation, I'm looking for the
nickelback as well. The big thing I want to determine is who we
are going to run at. Once I find the linebackers, I know where we
have to go.

"That job gets hard when people start moving around, and any
defense worth its salt isn't going to just stand there. Once
those guys start jumping around, that's when I have to point out
to my guys who they are going to block. One of the hardest things
to do is to point people out when they're moving at the last
moment. You'll see a safety walking toward the line of scrimmage,
and you have to account for him. If you see a center pointing
emphatically all over the place, that means the protection has
changed completely. You have to start worrying about whether the
quarterback is going to pause in his cadence so you can make the
adjustment. That's when all hell can break loose.

"The hard part about the NFL is getting used to making all those
adjustments. When I was in college [at Florida], it was real
basic. There are two philosophies to pass protection: You can
have a scheme with a lot of protections, or you can have one with
a few protections that have a lot of detailed adjustments. In
college it was easy because all I had to do was memorize the
protections. We didn't have many adjustments, and if we did have
to change something at the line, [quarterback] Danny Wuerffel
took care of it. But I'm in my fifth NFL offense now, and it's
tough to play football aggressively when you're thinking about
all these things. In fact, sometimes things happen so fast that
the coaches have to go back and look at the film before they can
tell what really happened in there." --Jeffri Chadiha

COLOR PHOTO: DAMIAN STROHMEYER LINE DRIVE Mitchell (60) has to use his head before he throws hisbody into defenders.