Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday he is not concerned about the availability of wide receiver Brandon LaFell for Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins, though LaFell missed practice Wednesday with lingering neck soreness from a hard hit at Chicago.
LaFell was hit in the head by Bears defensive back Chris Conte on a third-quarter play deep in Chicago territory. Conte was penalized for hitting a defenseless receiver and LaFell briefly left the game before returning.
“During the game, after he took the hit, they took him inside and examined him. And at that point, he had passed the (concussion) protocol. That’s why later on he came back into the game,” Rivera said.
“But come Monday morning, his neck was stiff and sore, and he complained of having a headache in the morning. So because of that, then they went into the protocol. So they examined him further and we’ll see how he is (Thursday).”
Rivera said he felt comfortable with how the team’s medical staff handled LaFell after the hit, allowing him to return to the game.
“They took him in and did the things they were supposed to. We followed the rules,” Rivera said. “He came back out. Then afterward, I talked to him after the game, he seemed OK. It’s just in the morning things tightened up and stiffened up.”
Rivera, a former Bears linebacker, said when LaFell told him he had a sore neck on Monday, he joked, “Now you know what a linebacker feels like.” The Panthers coach said he understands the seriousness of hits to the head but after talking with LaFell this week, he is optimistic about his availability against the Redskins.
“When I talked to him, I felt pretty confident. He was very upbeat about everything,” Rivera said. “This is serious. But he was pretty confident. … But he’s got to go through the whole process.”
CAM’S PERSPECTIVE: After another narrow loss, quarterback Cam Newton said the Panthers can’t change their season by talking about it.
“It comes down to each person challenging themselves,” Newton said. “I think everything has been said that’s going to be said from coaches, players, leaders, whoever. Nothing else needs to be said.
“If it was thought about from the outside, it has been said in here, trust me. It just comes down to each and every person being accountable for their personal responsibility.”
Asked what a victory would mean to the 1-6 Panthers, Newton at first said he didn’t know before adding:
“It would be better than the way it is right now. We just need to get back on the right track, just bringing the swagger, bringing the confidence, bringing the fun back to football. Nobody wants to be around losing. It’s kind of like a disease. It’s just like winning. Winning is contagious and so is losing.”
RG’S THREE: In preparing to face the Redskins on Sunday, the Panthers used three players in the role of Robert Griffin III during practice.
Receiver Armanti Edwards played the RG3 role for a time as did quarterbacks Derek Anderson and Jimmy Clausen.
“We’re trying to give all different looks,” Rivera said. “The more important thing is about the formations, and the backs, and the paths they’re using, and the scheme as far as the blocks.”
GAMBLE RECOVERING: Cornerback Chris Gamble had his right arm in a sling Wednesday, six days after season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum. Gamble injured his shoulder in Week 2 against New Orleans, then aggravated it during practice before the Dallas game in Week 7.
“It was just frustrating,” Gamble said. “But I’ll just get it back stronger and get ready for next year.”
Gamble was coming off a strong season in 2011, when he tied for the team lead with three interceptions and had 10 pass breakups while facing the opponent’s top receiver each week.
Gamble has been encouraged by the play of the defense, though it hasn’t resulted in wins.
“They’ve been playing good. I’ve just really been watching defense,” Gamble said. “Overall, it’s kind of frustrating. I thought we should have won last week (against Chicago). But things happen. But on the defensive side, everybody’s doing good.”
MURPHY’S LAW: Wide receiver Louis Murphy was targeted four times Sunday at Chicago but did not have a catch. Murphy had a critical fumble recovery for a touchdown early in the game but he also had one dropped pass, an issue coaches are working to eliminate.
“He’s been spending time after practice catching the ball … with people around him. He’s taken some extra throws from Cam," Rivera said.
“It’s a concentration thing. I think sometimes it’s just a traffic thing. That’s probably the sign of a guy losing his focus or concentration for a split second. We have to continue to work on it.”
Staff writer Joseph Person.