Rookie return man Joe Adams has been in Ron Rivera’s doghouse since Week 3. And injuries have kept wide receiver David Gettis sidelined since before the 2011 season.
But with a season-ending injury to wide receiver/ returner Kealoha Pilares, both Adams and Gettis likely will play when the Denver Broncos come to town Sunday.
The Panthers activated Gettis from the physically unable to perform list Tuesday after learning Pilares would need season-ending shoulder surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and labrum.
Rivera said Gettis’ experience returning kickoffs – eight returns for 145 yards in 2010 for the Panthers as well as in college – should serve him well on Sunday replacing Pilares, who suffered the injury midway through the third quarter against the Redskins on a kickoff.
Adams, whom Rivera often describes as a “dynamic player,” has not played since fumbling a kickoff and muffing a punt against the New York Giants on national television.
“I was surprised,” Adams said of how long he’s been sidelined. “But I can’t do anything about it but just know what I’ve got to do.”
Cornerback Captain Munnerlyn replaced Adams on punt returns, but he has 10 returns this season for only 48 yards. Rivera said Wednesday he has not decided who will field punts Sunday.
“Joe’s really more explosive as a punt returner, so we’ll see as far as that’s concerned,” Rivera said. “Right we’re still looking at both options there.
“I think the thing we need to look at right now is making sure we control the ball.”
COMEBACK CANDIDATE: With four NFL MVPs and a Super Bowl title, Denver quarterback Peyton Manning may add another award at the end of the season: comeback player of the year.
Manning went through multiple neck surgeries over the course of two years to correct a bulging disk. Now Manning has his team atop the AFC West with the highest passer rating in the league at 108.6.
Another candidate? Carolina’s Thomas Davis, who is the Panthers’ starting weakside linebacker after having his third ACL reconstructive surgery last year.
“Thomas for what he’s gone through and Peyton, those two are at the top of the list,” Rivera said. “Both of those guys give a tremendous amount to their teams. Obviously Peyton plays the quarterback position and may get a little more notoriety, but I think Thomas Davis is most certainly deserving.”
BIG MONEY SITS: Defensive end Charles Johnson took the day off after injuring his left hip.
“Charles Johnson came up lame,” Rivera said. “He thinks he caught an elbow on the hip and it bothered him. He felt better (Wednesday) but we thought we’d give him a break too.”
Johnson had two sacks against the Redskins on Sunday, giving him 7.5 for the season. Johnson said he’ll be ready to go for the Broncos.
INJURY UPDATE: The Panthers’ injury report was a long one. Veterans Davis, Jordan Gross and Geoff Hangartner had days off, and others continued to nurse injuries.
Defensive ends Antawn Applewhite (hamstring) and Thomas Keiser (elbow), defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (ankle) and fullback Mike Tolbert (head) sat out. Rivera said the team must follow head-injury protocol before Tolbert can return.
Defensive end Frank Alexander (knee) participated fully.
SUPERCAM: Cam Newton knows the type of influence professional athletes have on kids.
One local high school quarterback was ejected from his first-round playoff game for doing Newton’s signature Superman pose following a touchdown. The referees said West Mecklenburg’s Jalen McClendon was taunting the other team and had to sit the rest of the game.
“Taunting is taunting. But at the end of the day you still have to have fun playing the game,” Newton said. “And whether you’re doing it to be a boost of morale for your team or you’re trying to demise a player. I heard about it, guys talking about it in the locker room.”
Newton said hearing about the incident reminded him of the impact he has on those who look up to him.
“The result wasn’t the result that I wanted to hear, but it just goes to show that if I go out and do a good deed in the community, people are going to read about it (and) people are going to hear about it,” he said. “Just the opposite if I go out and do something crazy, there’s going to be a lot of people that are going to be hurt, including my family and close friends.”
NAKAMURA FINED: Free safety Haruki Nakamura said the league fined him $21,000 for his hit on Redskins receiver Josh Morgan in the second quarter Sunday.
Nakamura said he plans to appeal the fine, the first of his career.
“I totally agree with player safety. But I wasn’t aiming for his head,” Nakamura said. “I’m not a head-hunter. Am I a physical football player? Yes. I’m not a head-hunter.”
Defensive end Greg Hardy said he hasn’t heard from the league about his hit to the helmet of Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, which also drew a flag.
Staff writer Joseph Person contributed