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Panthers will give top pick Kuechly a look at WLB

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CHARLOTTE (AP) -- First-round draft pick Luke Kuechly has a new number and, at least for now, a new position with the Carolina Panthers.

Before his first NFL practice, Kuechly was given No. 59 -- the same number coach Ron Rivera wore during his nine seasons with the Chicago Bears -- and told he'll start out playing weak side linebacker. That's a change from the middle linebacker spot he played at Boston College, where he led the nation in tackles the last two seasons.

For now, the Panthers plan to keep Jon Beason at middle linebacker, although things could change before the start of the season.

Rivera says ultimately he wants to "put the best combination of players on the football field'' and says he's confident Kuechly can play all three linebacker positions.

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