PANTHERS GET BOOST FROM GUARD TYLSKI

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Date: 2004-09-06

Greensboro News & Record (NC)

PANTHERS GET BOOST FROM GUARD TYLSKI
AFTER TWO YEARS AWAY, RICH TYLSKI RETURNS WITH A NEW DAUGHTER AND NEWFOUND DESIRE.

Author: Jeff Carlton, Staff Writer
Dateline: CHARLOTTE

Rich Tylski started having second thoughts about retirement not long after deciding to spare his body from the physical pounding of pro football at the beginning of training camp in 2002.

Now with the Carolina Panthers, the 33-year-old offensive lineman is glad he pursued a return to the NFL.

But he doesn't regret taking a two-year hiatus.

Not in the least.

"I believe that God had a plan for how things worked out," Tylski said during training camp.

While he was back home in Jacksonville, Fla., healing from the aches and pains of eight NFL seasons, Tylski and his wife, Jane, adopted a 4-year-old girl who joined the three sons they already had.

The couple began pursuing adoption while he was still playing. The Tylskis were in the process of adopting an infant, having done their home study, when that fell through. Then Janie practically fell into their laps. Her adoption was finalized last April.

If he were off playing football games, Rich Tylski doesn't think he would've found Janie, who turned 5 last month.

"We were the match," he said, "and she's an awesome little girl. She's a daddy's girl."

Tylski's passion for football didn't disappear while he was away, nor did the respect that his former offensive line coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Mike Maser, had for him.

That's why the Panthers signed him to provide depth at the guard and center positions. Injuries have helped guarantee him a more prominent role on the team's unsettled line.

Tylski has started at right guard the last two weeks and likely will be there when the Panthers open the regular season with Super Bowl ambitions next Monday night against Green Bay at Bank of America Stadium.

"You approach it wanting to be part of something special," Tylski said. "I've been 30 minutes away from that big game three times without being able to go, and I think that's a perspective a lot of guys who weren't on this team can show these guys: You were fortunate. A lot of people have played in this league who never get there."

Tylski started 62 games, mostly at right guard, for Jacksonville and Pittsburgh.

"He is a wily veteran and knows how to play the game," Panthers coach John Fox said.

Tylski was released by the Steelers after an injury-filled 2001 season and was signed by New England. About the time training camp started, Tylski retired. Various injuries - none major - had taken their toll.

Jane Tylski took her husband to an NFL game in Jacksonville that September, looking to give him closure.

"That didn't work, did it?" he cracked.

Watching the game among fans in the stands - not down on the field with fellow players - was hard. And it only made him miss the game more.

Tylski's agent told Maser the week before last year's Super Bowl that his client wanted to come back.

Maser said he'd get back to him.

After looking at the depth chart in mid-February, and seeing a need, Maser suggested Tylski to general manager Marty Hurney and director of pro scouting Mark Koncz. Soon after, the Panthers signed him.

"He really stresses the techniques," Maser said of Tylski. "He's not a gifted athlete, but he'll always give you all he's got. In our situation right now, that's all you can ask for."

Playing again is all Tylski could have asked for.

"I love being in the mix," he said. "I missed the game. Everything else takes care of itself."

Contact Jeff Carlton at 373-7065 or jcarlton@news-record.com

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