SPARTANBURG In a 10-day span, Jeff Otah was a Carolina Panther. Then he wasn’t. Then he was again.
And now he isn’t.
The former first-round pick failed his physical Thursday with the Panthers, two days after he was shipped back from the New York Jets for not passing their physical. On Thursday, the Panthers terminated Otah’s contract.
“Any time you let go of a player as good as Jeff is, it’s a hard decision,” Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. “After he came back, and talking to him and going through the last few days, he doesn’t feel like he’s gotten over the injuries of the past two seasons and really doesn’t know when he’ll be ready. It was a decision that was probably best for both sides to move forward.”
Carolina dealt Otah to the Jets on July 23 for a conditional seventh-round draft pick. Otah failed his physical with the Jets on Tuesday and traveled to Spartanburg the next day to speak with Panthers coach Ron Rivera before going to Charlotte for another physical.
Otah’s agent, Jonathan Feinsod, said Thursday his client will be ready to play this season, but he had no comment when asked if Otah had any interest from other teams.
“He’ll definitely be able to play again, and we definitely think he’ll be able to play this season,” Feinsod said.
The 6-foot-6, 340-pound offensive tackle will go to Ohio to participate in the former Pro Bowler LeCharles Bentley’s O-Line Academy. According to the academy’s website, the program includes Pilates to build core strength, martial arts to facilitate hand movements and functional weight training to develop strength and power.
At spring organized team activities, Otah showed up out of shape and overweight after missing 31 of the past 35 games because of persistent knee injuries. He was never able to get back to his playing shape.
“Jeff’s a very talented player, but to help us, he has to be able to feel like he can be on the field,” Hurney said. “And we’re not to the point where that’s the case right now.”
Hurney said the Panthers’ depth at tackle – Byron Bell, Garry Williams and Bruce Campbell – factored into the decision to terminate Otah’s contract. He was due $1.1 million in the last year of his contract, but there will be no injury settlement because the injuries were pre-existing.
“We feel like we’ve got some good young players there,” Hurney said. “We do feel like our depth is pretty good there and that plays into the decision.”