Oher looks for new start in Carolina, return to 'Blind Side'
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Michael Oher is anxious to return to the position that first made him famous - ''The Blind Side.''
Oher, the subject of a book and 2009 hit movie by that name, will have a chance to win the Carolina Panthers starting left tackle job this season after struggling in 2014 playing right tackle for the Tennessee Titans.
''It's my more natural position,'' Oher said.
The Panthers signed Oher to a two-year, $7 million contract last month after parting ways with starting left tackle Byron Bell. Oher is penciled in as the replacement, although it's possible Carolina could select a tackle in the upcoming NFL draft.
Oher, 28, played 11 games last season for the Titans before undergoing season-ending surgery on his left toe. Tennessee released him in February, less than a year after giving him a four-year, $20 million contract. Before that, Oher started all 80 games in five seasons for Baltimore and helped the Ravens win a Super Bowl.
Now Oher is looking to jumpstart his career.
His play began to slip near the end of his tenure in Baltimore and last season he was ranked among the top 10 worst tackles in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, allowing six sacks and 26 pressures in 11 games.
Oher said a toe injury was an issue last year, but he's now close to 100 percent.
''It affected me quite a bit,'' Oher said of the injury. ''That's something I've been dealing with for years. During the game in my stance, I'd be thinking about that rather than thinking about the guy that I'm going against.''
Tennessee clearly wasn't the right organizational fit for Oher, even though he grew up in Memphis.
''I like things to be run the right way, doing things right and just being on top of things,'' Oher said of his short tenure with the Titans. ''I'm trying to put (last year) behind me and move forward.''
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Oher is hoping that reuniting with Panthers offensive line coach John Matsko will help get him back on track.
He played under Matsko with the Ravens for the first two years of his career before the coach left for Carolina.
Oher describes himself as a ''big fundamentals and technique guy,'' and said he relates well to Matsko's coaching technique.
''We look forward to having Michael be a part of what we are building here,'' Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said in a release when team signed Oher last month. ''He's a pro who understands what it takes to win. A big part of why we pursued Michael was his relationship with offensive line coach John Matsko and the opportunity to have him work with Ray Brown. We are excited to have him.''
Oher said he's motivated to prove himself in Carolina.
''I'm still chasing greatness and want to be great,'' Oher said. ''I still have time, (and) I feel like I have the ability, the attitude and just want to be great and not let these guys down. They won the division the last couple years. I've never heard anything bad about this organization. Everybody that I've met said they run things the right way.''
Oher will have some consistency at quarterback, something he lacked last season in Tennessee.
Cam Newton is entrenched as the starter, and Oher is anxious to protect Newton's blind side. Oher had a chance to meet 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton this week as Carolina's offseason conditioning program began.
''He's a specimen,'' Oher said. ''I watched him walking into the locker room; he looks great. I talked to (former Panthers offensive tackle) Jordan Gross about it, and he was saying (Newton) saved him from a lot of sacks. It'll be fun.''
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