Starting linebacker Jon Beason and top cornerback Chris Gamble are doubtful for the Carolina Panthers game Sunday against Seattle, and coach Ron Rivera wasnt optimistic the two starters will be ready to go against the Seahawks.
Both players are nursing injuries that have been lingering since before the Atlanta game last week, with Beason having a knee injury and Gamble a shoulder injury.
Its unless they really show theyre doubtful. Im not going to go any further than that, Rivera said. Im a little disappointed. Youd like to have all your guys for sure but they struggled with some of the other stuff.
In Beasons place at middle linebacker could be Luke Kuechly, but Rivera has shown apprehension about moving the rookie from the weakside linebacker position to the middle. Jason Phillips spent most of the preseason at middle linebacker and could also see snaps.
Gamble is the teams top cornerback with rookie Josh Norman starting at the other cornerback position and Captain Munnerlyn assuming the role of nickel back. Its likely that second-year corner Josh Thomas will take the other cornerback role on Sunday.
A third starter, guard Geoff Hangartner, is listed as questionable with a knee injury. Hangartner did not participate in practice Thursday or Friday, but he worked on the sideline with a trainer and that left Rivera optimistic.
He was not bad, and well see how he reacts tomorrow morning, Rivera said. Ideally if hes ready to go, you have to really test it on Sunday.
Garry Williams took the first-team reps in place of Hangartner.
Only reserve offensive lineman Mike Pollak is listed as out with a shoulder injury. Safety Colin Jones (shoulder) and defensive ends Frank Alexander (back) and Antwan Applewhite (knee) are probable for Sunday.
Neblett inactive: Defensive tackle Andre Neblett will not be active for Sundays game.
Neblett is coming off a four-game suspension and is eligible to play, but the Panthers are going to take their one-week exemption with Neblett before making a roster move.
He did take some reps with the first unit, Rivera said. He seemed to get right back in the flow of things. His big thing obviously is to be getting back into football shape. The pushing and conditioning part of it, you can never really simulate that.
Lynch pin: The Panthers rush defense will have its hands full against the NFLs leading rusher on Sunday.
Marshawn Lynch comes to Charlotte leading the league in rushing with 423 yards, which is more than Carolinas two leading rushers Newton and DeAngelo Williams have combined.
Hes hot. Hes tough to bring down, said Kuechly, the teams fifth-leading tackler. Theyve shown us clips of him breaking tackles, being in a pile. Theres a bunch of clips of him from past years being in a big group and hell get out and make a big run. We need a lot of guys around him to bring him down.