Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said Monday you never want to take the ball away from the hot hand, and in this case, he was referring to rookie safety Robert Lester.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera agreed, and said Wednesday that if Lesters hamstring is healed by Sunday when Carolina takes on Minnesota, the undrafted rookie from Alabama will get his third start of the season over veteran Quintin Mikell.
Lester has hauled in two interceptions and recovered a fumble in his first two NFL games at strong safety, and Rivera is of the mindset that hell continue with the hot hand.
You do want to do that. Roberts got a little bit of a rhythm going, Rivera said. I think he and (free safety) Mike (Mitchell) have developed a good rapport although its real easy to see Quintin, his ability to work with whoevers out there, hes a veteran guy. I think thats a plus for us if we can get them both back out there healthy for us on Sunday, well stick with what weve been doing the last couple weeks as far as safety is concerned.
Lester aggravated his hamstring this week and sat out of practice Wednesday, though he did participate in walk-throughs and installation periods. Mikell returned to practice for the first time since injuring his ankle against Buffalo in Week 2, and Rivera liked what he saw from the former Pro Bowler on his first day back.
Lester said he prepares like hes the starter each week, even in the weeks when he was on the practice squad, and that the decision to play or start isnt up to him.
Honestly, its not my say-so to determine if I play or not, Lester said. The only thing I can control is being prepared whenever my time is called. Thats something Im going to continue to do prepare each week like Im starting. Whatever the coaches feel is the better decision, Im with it.
Injury update: Tight end Greg Olsen did not participate in practice with a foot injury after being seen Monday in a protective walking boot. He said Wednesday he does not plan to miss the game Sunday, and Rivera did not voice concern about the availability of Olsen, the teams leading receiver through four games.
Its all right. Ill be fine. Its more precautionary. I should be able to do some more stuff tomorrow, Olsen said. I dont expect to miss any time.
Olsen has played in 98 consecutive games dating back to his time in Chicago. He holds the third-longest active games streak among tight ends behind Jason Witten (160) and Tony Gonzalez (107).
Also sitting out Wednesday was defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (hamstring) and cornerback D.J. Moore (knee). Defensive tackle Colin Cole (shoulder) was limited.
Farewell, Armanti: The Panthers gave wide receiver Armanti Edwards a look for more than three years, and on Wednesday after cutting the former Appalachian State standout, Rivera bid Edwards a public farewell.
I think going forward, weve been here with Armanti for the last few years and he was the one we felt like we knew pretty well, Rivera said.
We wanted to take a shot and look at other young guys.
The Panthers signed wide receiver Marvin McNutt to the 53-man roster. McNutt, a former all-conference player at Iowa, was most recently on the Dolphins practice squad.
Quarterback Cam Newton said Edwards was a standup guy and a hell of a player, and said he wasnt sure why Edwards, who finished his Panthers career with five catches for 121 yards, never seemed to integrate himself into Carolinas offense.
Im not sure, Newton said. Armanti was a great player. He had a very, very talented skill set. We all knew that. But at the same time thats not something that I could tell (you), that goes with something that has a higher power (coaches and executives) than me.
Carolina also signed receiver Toney Clemmons and linebackers Ben Jacobs and Jeff Tarpinian to the practice squad.
The Panthers have yet to move left guard Amini Silatolu to injured reserve, which will open up another roster spot. Rivera said the team will look to fill that spot with someone outside the building.
Quarterback debate: Josh Freeman has played against the Panthers twice in each of the previous three years, but he wont get the nod in his only appearance against Carolina in 2013.
The former Tampa Bay quarterback signed with the Vikings this week, and while Minnesota coach Leslie Frazier plans to pick Freemans brain for his knowledge of Carolinas defense, the coach said Wednesday he will not play Freeman.
Well choose between Christian Ponder and Matt Cassel, one of those two guys will start the game for us, Frazier said on a teleconference. Well see how Christian does this week coming back from the rib injury and then well make a determination as the week goes on.
Ponders rib injury kept him out of Week 4s game in London against Pittsburgh, and backup Cassel went 16-of-25 for 248 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in the victory.
Ponder is more of an athletic quarterback while Cassel is a traditional pocket passer, and Carolina will prepare this week for either option.
You have to prepare for both, but were going to lean a little more toward Matt right now and well see how all of that unfolds, Rivera said.
He said it: Among the questions about Minnesota running back and reigning NFL MVP Adrian Peterson, defensive end Greg Hardy was asked if he selects Peterson first when he plays the video game Madden.
Said Hardy: Im my first pick in Madden. Im my second pick in Madden. Im going to have 11 mes on both sides of the ball.
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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