A typical sight at Panthers practice for the past month is veteran defensive tackle Dwan Edwards walking up the hill to the practice fields with his jersey around his neck.
Edwards hasn’t played or practiced since the Week 2 game at Buffalo because of a hamstring strain. So when he came to the field Thursday with his jersey on over his pads, media members had to do a double take.
Edwards’ first practice in more than a month went well, he said, but there’s still a long way before he’s back to full health.
“It’s by no means 100 percent at all, but I wanted to go out there and feel and at least see what I was able to do,” Edwards said. “At some point in time you got to see where you’re at.”
Edwards said he’s never missed a month of practice during the season before, so this is new territory. He’s hopeful to play Sunday against St. Louis.
The 10-year veteran tackle was limited in practice while the coaches were looking specifically at how Edwards got off the line of scrimmage.
“The biggest thing right now that we’re trying to work through is his ability to burst,” coach Ron Rivera said. “He did some stuff on the side and took some reps of a couple things with a certain group but for the most part we’re trying to be really careful with that.”
How Edwards feels Friday will go a long way in determining his status for Sunday’s game. If he’s able to play, Rivera expects Edwards would play 30-35 snaps with a rotation of Colin Cole and Kawann Short behind him. If Edwards sits for a fourth consecutive game, Cole will get the start.
Injury updates: Rivera expects running back Kenjon Barner to play Sunday should he suffer no setbacks from Thursday or Friday’s practices.
Barner played his first game in Week 5 against Arizona but sat last week after he developed soreness in the same foot he sprained in the preseason.
Tight end Greg Olsen took reps in all practice periods Thursday but “didn’t take a lot,” according to Rivera. Olsen said earlier in the week he plans to play Sunday.
Cornerback Melvin White (concussion) was limited at practice as he continues to go through the concussion protocol. He has to be cleared by an independent doctor before he can play Sunday.
“I was full-go, but it was part of the protocol to see how I perform and how I feel exercising, actually being out there running and going through plays to see how I feel and how my head is doing that,” White said.
PUP clarification: Per the new rules in the collective bargaining agreement, the latest running back Jonathan Stewart could return this season is Week 15.
Stewart is eligible to return to the active roster after spending the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list. He has yet to practice, and the Panthers have a maximum of five weeks from Tuesday for him to practice, otherwise he will sit the remainder of the year.
From the time of his first practice, the team would then have three weeks to activate or he would stay on PUP the rest of the year.
It’s unlikely Carolina would use the maximum time allotted, and Stewart said Monday he expects to play this year. Rivera said Wednesday it was unlikely Stewart plays Sunday.
Tampa time: Rivera said some of his assistant coaches will begin watching tape and evaluating Tampa Bay on Thursday in preparation for next week’s Thursday night game against the Buccaneers.
Carolina will have a short turnaround following St. Louis to play the primetime game, so some coaches – but not the coordinators – will get a jump on the game plan this weekend.
“What you really don’t want to do is get into your thoughts in terms of game-planning because you don’t want to mix them up, especially the coordinators. The coordinators probably won’t do anything,” Rivera said.
Think pink: The NFL, the Panthers and the American Cancer Society will provide two dozen high schools in North and South Carolina with a “stadium kit” to help outfit the stadium and football players in pink, just like the NFL does with its teams during the month of October.
Some of the area schools include AL Brown, Butler, Charlotte Catholic, East Lincoln and Shelby.
If the Panthers pilot program is successful, the NFL may consider going league-wide in 2014.