In football, the term “next man up” is often thrown around the practice field.
After veteran defensive tackle Ron Edwards was lost for the season Monday night, the next man up is second-year tackle Sione Fua.
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday that Fua will be the starter at defensive tackle alongside Dwan Edwards after Ron Edwards dislocated his left elbow against the Eagles.
“Guys got to step up and that’s the nature of the business,” Dwan Edwards said. “I think we have some young guys that have worked hard and are willing to accept this opportunity.”
Fua assumes a starting position he held for 11 games last season before going on the injured reserve with a hamstring injury. He’s played in each of the past eight games and saw nine snaps Monday night against the Eagles.
After starting as a rookie last year, Fua said he’s picked the brains of the veterans and taken cues from them.
”I think for me especially the game has slowed down a lot more,” Fua said. “I know what to expect, I know what to see week to week especially watching the game film. Preparing for these teams, you really know how they’re going to attack you”
Though Fua will get the start, Rivera plans to rotate at least four players at that position. Andre Neblett, newly activated Frank Kearse and starting defensive end Greg Hardy may see time at defensive tackle.
STEWART’S STATUS: Rivera said running back Jonathan Stewart’s status for Sunday’s game at Kansas City is uncertain, but he’s optimistic his starting back will return from his high ankle sprain by then.
Stewart suffered the sprain to his left ankle against the Eagles on Monday. He suffered a similar injury to his right ankle in the preseason against the Jets that had him sidelined through the rest of the preseason and for two of the Panthers’ first three regular season games.
“It wasn’t as bad, that much I know,” Rivera said. “And it was on his opposite foot. ... I saw him coming in today walking. He looked OK. I’m optimistic.”
Stewart did not practice Wednesday.
FILM STUDY: With a short week, the Panthers’ players had not had a chance to look at film of the Chiefs by the time they met with the media Wednesday afternoon.
When asked about specifics of the Chiefs game, several players said the film study wouldn’t come until later in the day. But Rivera and the rest of the coaching staff have been looking at the Chiefs since as early as Monday morning.
“It’s a lot of work, and that’s the tough thing about a short week,” Rivera said. “But I think we’ve caught up as far as the staff’s concerned.”
CORNERBACK SIGNED: The Panthers signed cornerback Nick Hixson to their practice squad and brought Kearse up to the 53-man roster.
Hixson, a rookie, was on the New Orleans Saints’ practice squad before being released. Rivera said they brought in a corner to help take some of the practice reps off starting corner Josh Norman and reserve Josh Thomas.
PRO BOWL: Mike Tolbert and Dwan Edwards are the only two Panthers in the top five of their position’s vote-getting for the 2012 Pro Bowl. Tolbert is second in votes for NFC fullbacks behind Green Bay’s John Kuhn. Edwards is third among NFC defensive tackles, trailing Chicago’s Henry Melton and San Francisco’s Justin Smith.
Voting for the Pro Bowl ends in three weeks. The Pro Bowl will be played in Hawaii on Jan. 29.
INJURY UPDATE: Cam Newton appeared on the Panthers’ injury report for the first time this season.
Newton fully participated in practice Wednesday despite a right wrist injury. Defensive end Antwan Applewhite (hamstring) was limited and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn was excused for personal reasons.