SPARTANBURG As they were for most of last season, the Panthers are expected to be without starting linebackers Jon Beason and Thomas Davis for Saturday’s exhibition opener against Houston.
Beason injured his hamstring Wednesday and did not practice Thursday.
“He tweaked it a little bit more than we anticipated. Right now if I had to guess I’d say he’s probably not going to play on Saturday night, unless somehow he feels much better this evening,” coach Ron Rivera said.
“We kept him in and they got him going through a pretty good workout right now and rehab stuff. We’ve got our fingers crossed, but if I had to guess I’d say right now he’s probably not going to make it.”
Jason Philips will take Beason’s spot in the middle against Houston, while first-round pick Luke Kuechly will remain on the weak side. Kuechly was a middle linebacker at Boston College, but has flanked Beason on the outside the first two weeks of training camp.
Rivera said even if Beason were healthy, he is not sure he would play him against the Texans.
Beason ruptured his left Achilles in Week 1 last year and missed the rest of the season. The hamstring injury involves the same leg.
Rivera expects Beason to be back next week. The status of Davis is still unclear.
Davis, attempting to come back from three ACL surgeries, has a calf injury that has sidelined him for most of camp. Davis was in uniform Thursday, but did not take part in team drills.
Under Pressure: Justin Medlock appeared to gain an edge on Olindo Mare in the kicking competition Thursday by going 4-of-4 on field goals, including two of 50 yards or more. Mare, who signed a four-year, $12 million deal last summer as John Kasay’s replacement, was 2-of-4 overall, and 1-of-2 from 50-plus.
Rivera has tried to simulate game conditions with the kickers, but said the key will be how each performs in the exhibitions.
“Out here’s one thing, and we try to do as much as we can. I blow the whistle to stop and try to ice them. We have guys flinching on purpose. We make it live on the edge, and just see how guys react to all that stuff,” Rivera said. “But the real tell will be when we start playing the games.”
Medlock has attempted only two regular-season field goals in the NFL, although he made 86.5 percent of his kicks during three seasons in the Canadian Football .
“He hasn’t had a lot of NFL experience. He’s got a lot of Canadian football (experience), which is a little bit different. But they still have to go through the uprights and they still have to kick the ball,” Rivera said. “Plus, the Canadians have one extra guy. So heck, he had to do it against 12.”
Three for No. 3 receiver spot: Last year at Wofford, the Panthers signed free-agent wideout Legedu Naanee to augment the competition at the No. 2 receiving spot. While Brandon LaFell looks to be locked in as the No. 2 receiver this year, there is a logjam at the No. 3 spot, where Seyi Ajirotutu, Louis Murphy and Kealoha Pilares are battling.
Though no one has separated from the pack, Rivera doesn’t think the Panthers need to go outside the organization to find another receiver.
“I feel very confident in this group of guys as opposed to what happened last year. It was a bunch of young guys that were developing,” Rivera said. “Our young guys have done a nice job.”
Bill Polian, the Panthers’ general manager their first three season, was in Spartanburg on Thursday with SiriusXM NFL Radio. Polian, fired in Indianapolis after the Colts went 2-14 last season, visited with GM Marty Hurney, coach Ron Rivera and other team officials.
“I’ve seen a lot of old friends,” said Polian, who has a house on Lake Norman.
• Charlotte native and former Panthers linebacker Omar Gaither will be back in his hometown Saturday when the Texans come to Bank of America Stadium. Gaither, who battled injuries last year in his only season with the Panthers, signed Thursday with the Texans after linebacker Keyaron Fox was placed on injured reserve.
• A Japanese TV station sent a crew to Spartanburg for a feature on first-year safety Haruki Nakamura, whose late father moved to the U.S. from Japan in the 1960s and was an eighth-degree black belt in judo.
• After catching a pass along the sideline, Ajirotutu had the ball popped loose by cornerback R.J. Stanford, prompting some groans from the offensive coaches. But the player known as “Tutu” came back the next play to pull in a 20-yard pass from Cam Newton over the middle.
• The crowds at Wofford have been smaller this week since the Panthers moved their practices to the morning. But the team already has set an attendance record with more than 37,000 fans at Wofford, topping last year’s total of 34,243. The crowd of more than 12,000 at the first practice also was a record.
THREE QUESTIONS WITH
Receiver Jared Green
Q: What kind of training did you do with your dad (NFL Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green)?
We’d work out wherever. We run hills a lot. There’s a highway by my house and we run up the hill, we run up the hills backward. And then we’d do routes and catch kicks. It gets you conditioned and mentally tough.
Q: You went to Southern, a HBCU (historically black college and university), and newly acquired Justin Wells makes the fourth HBCU alumni on the team. What’s it like coming from one of those schools?
The thing I really love about the HBCU life is that you get more humble, you get more hungry. You don’t get a thousand pairs of gloves or cleats. You probably have one water person, one equipment guy for the year and you’ll wear the same cleats all year.
Q: The Panthers just waived Hubert Anyiam, leaving 14 guys listed at wide receiver. You obviously bond with these guys, but is it nice to not have to worry about that one extra guy?
Not really. You really look at it as, well this is the game. They’re probably going to keep half or less than half of us. So you look at it as it was expected. Not Hubert in particular, but you expect somebody to be gone. And you just make sure that it isn’t you. Jonathan Jones
GETTING TO KNOW
Linebacker Jason Phillips
Height: 6-1 Weight: 240
NFL Experience: Selected in the fifth round by Baltimore in 2009, Phillips was on injured reserve as a rookie after injuring his knee in training camp. The Panthers claimed him off waivers last September, and Phillips played in four games before a calf injury ended his season.
The scoop: Phillips will get a chance to start at middle linebacker Saturday with Jon Beason nursing a hamstring injury. He needs to play well to earn a roster spot, given the depth the Panthers have at linebacker.
Bet you didn’t know: He was the first player in Mountain West Conference history to make first- or second-team all-conference four straight seasons.