Despite his offensive line giving up seven sacks a week ago, Panthers coach Ron Rivera wont be shaking up the starters Sunday against Tampa Bay.
The same five linemen will start for the fourth straight game, with Jeff Byers staying at his right guard position less than a week after the Panthers brought in veteran Jeremy Bridges to compete for the spot.
Bridges had been on injured reserve with the Arizona Cardinals for 10 weeks with torn thumb ligaments. He signed an injury settlement on Nov. 5 and was with the Panthers on Wednesday.
With Jeremy, the biggest thing is his conditioning, Rivera said. When you watch Wednesday and Thursday practice, hes good, hes where hes supposed to be. But hes ... losing his legs earlier and earlier.
Bridges played for the Panthers from 2006-08 before going to the Cardinals. Guard Amini Silatolu is a rookie and right tackle Byron Bell is a second-year player, but Bridges is familiar with veterans Geoff Hangartner and Jordan Gross.
He is lining up to guys he knows as far as Hangartner and with Jordan on the other side. Those are guys who have worked together and theres that familiarity, Rivera said. I watch them in practice and you see the two of them, they have an instant rapport as far as the center and right guard. Thats comforting to know that.
SPECIAL PHILOSOPHY: Rivera said Friday he expects his return units to be better at protection and be more aggressive going forward.
The coach said the special teams unit hadnt been as aggressive as we needed to be this season with Brian Murphy as the special teams coordinator.
But after Rivera fired Murphy on Monday and promoted Richard Rodgers to the position, he said hes seen more guys be more vocal on the practice field.
EDWARDS PROBABLE: Armanti Edwards, the Panthers kick returner last week, is listed as probable for Sunday with a groin injury.
Edwards sprained his groin in practice on Wednesday and did not participate Thursday. He took limited reps on Friday, and the staff will monitor him over the weekend.
Rivera made no indication of whether rookie return man Joe Adams will be active for the first time since Week 3, when he fumbled a kickoff and muffed a punt against the Giants. But since that time hes looked for three consistent days in practice from Adams, and he said he got that this week.
Should Edwards be unable to go, David Gettis, Louis Murphy or Adams will return kickoffs.
APPLEWHITE OUT: Defensive end Antwan Applewhite (hamstring) is the only Panther listed as out for Sundays game. He has missed the past three games and didnt practice this week.
Rivera said its still too early to know if Applewhite will go to injured reserve, but should he be sat for the season, linebacker Jason Williams may slide to his spot.
That would allow the Panthers to use odd packages rather than just using four down linemen.
We started earlier in the year with (odd packages) with Antwan, Rivera said. When you have Antwan in there you can be a four-down line and then all of a sudden you go odd package and he pops up and its like another linebacker.
Not having that theres been a little bit of difference, but quite honestly we havent really missed it because of the success weve had as a rush team anyway.