Jon Beason eager to return to Carolina despite losing his starting job at middle linebacker

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina — Panthers three-time Pro Bowler Jon Beason wants to remain in Carolina next season despite losing his starting job at middle linebacker.

Beason said he has no intention of asking the team for a trade.

"I want to stay where I'm loved," said the 27-year-old Beason.

Beason, a four-year starter at middle linebacker, went on IR in Week 5. Coach Ron Rivera moved first-round draft pick Luke Kuechly over from weak side linebacker to the middle to replace Beason.

Kuechly has been a smash hit ever since.

He's second in the NFL in tackles and is expected to be in the talk for AP Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. All indications are Rivera plans to keep Kuechly in the middle for the foreseeable future.

"We may have found something there," Rivera said.

Although Beason prefers playing middle linebacker, Rivera said his skill set is better suited to play weak side linebacker than Kuechly, who led the nation in tackles twice while playing middle linebacker at Boston College.

"When you look at the different skill sets, I think Jon's got the skill sets to play inside and outside a little bit more than Luke does," Rivera said. "Luke's skill set lends more toward being an inside guy. So we'll see. It's still a ways away. ... I think it's one of those things that you do what's going to be best for us."

Beason, a former first-round pick out of Miami, has played on the weak side before but has made it clear in the past he feels more comfortable in the middle where he's allowed to run to both sides of the field and make plays.

Beason used that ability to his advantage while leading the Panthers in tackles for four straight season from 2007-10. He was selected to the Pro Bowl in three of those seasons.

That earned him a five-year, $51.5 million contract prior to the 2011 season — of which $25 is guaranteed.

But injuries have plagued him since.

He missed 15 games in 2011 after tearing his Achilles tendon and will miss 11 games this season with knee and shoulder injuries. He had surgery earlier this year to repair cartilage damage in his right knee and will have another operation soon to fix a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

Beason could wind up splitting reps at weak side linebacker with Thomas Davis, who has bounced back from three torn ACLs to have a solid season there.
"I like what is happening here," Beason said of the team.

And there's another reason, too.

"There's a big part of me that wants to return and justify that contract," Beason said.

In the meantime, Beason is rooting on Kuechly.

Despite the fact the rookie has taken his job, Beason remains a big fan.

"The kid is having a great season," Beason said. "He's flying to the ball and making plays. If he doesn't make the Pro Bowl it would be a shame."

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