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Rookie Edmund Kugbila goes to injured reserve, done for the year

Edmund Kugbila’s rookie year with the Carolina Panthers ended Tuesday before it ever really started.

The rookie guard and Carolina’s fourth-round draft pick from April was placed on injured reserve after the guard struggled all spring and summer with knee and hamstring injuries.

Kugbila, a 6-foot-4, 325-pound lineman from Division II Valdosta State, missed nearly all of spring workouts with a sore knee and he strained his hamstring during the first practice of training camp in July. He attempted to practice later in camp but suffered a setback and did not finish the practice session.

Saturday he completed his first full practice, but he suffered yet another setback and was sidelined for the next three days.

“The hard part is the young man has worked so hard,” coach Ron Rivera said. “He’s flashed so much for us and you get excited about the young man but this last little situation – the tweak with the knee and all that stuff – in the long term, with our medical staff, they feel this is the best thing for him.

“It’s a long-term thing in terms of getting him ready to go and really looking toward the future with him. Disappointing we are going to miss a good young football player like the other four (draft picks) are getting ready to help us. I think he’s going to be fine and they’ll take care of the situation and get him all geared up.”

Kugbila was drafted to be Geoff Hangartner’s understudy in the preseason and eventually assume the starting right guard role. Instead, Kugbila never got healthy, Hangartner was cut early into training camp and Garry Williams won the role with very little depth behind him at the position.

Two moves: The Panthers had to get to their roster to 75 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday, and along with moves made with Kugbila and Jonathan Stewart, the team waived two other injured players: defensive tackle Frank Kearse (knee) and receiver Joe Adams (calf).

Adams started last year as the team’s kick and punt returner after Carolina drafted him in the fourth round out of Arkansas. He struggled with controlling the ball, fumbling away a kickoff and muffing a punt in Week 3 against the Giants.

Rivera said he believed Kearse injured his knee during the Philadelphia game, but snap counts show it likely happened during the Chicago game since he did not play against the Eagles.

Should they clear waivers and no team picks them up, both players will automatically revert to the Panthers’ injured reserve. Michael Zordich, Kealoha Pilares and Bruce Campbell reverted to the Panthers’ IR Tuesday.

Cam sighting: Rivera was coy about how much, if any, playing time Cam Newton would get Thursday against Pittsburgh.

Rivera said there’s no desire to get Newton and all the offensive starters on the field early in the game to get the ball in the end zone for what would be just the second time this preseason.

“We’re going to try to be careful and be smart,” Rivera said. “We’re banged up in a couple places, guys who are just starting to get healthy so we want to expose those guys as little as possible. We’ll make that decision as we get into that game day mode and see how far we want to go with guys.”

Newton did not play in the final exhibition last season. In 2011, he played just one drive of nine plays in the final exhibition.

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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