Panthers starting cornerback Josh Thomas missed practice Tuesday with the same flu-like symptoms that coach Ron Rivera came down with last week.
But Thomas might be out of the starting lineup Thursday at Tampa Bay regardless of his health. The third-year corner was replaced in the second half Sunday against St. Louis after getting beaten twice on deep passes, although one was negated by a penalty.
Undrafted rookie Melvin White and veteran Drayton Florence shared reps in place of Thomas, who has been a starter since the final four games of last season. Rivera said he likes the depth at cornerback, where Captain Munnerlyn is the other starter.
“The key is making sure we put out the right combination. We struggled a little bit last week. We made a move in the middle of the game. We inserted Drayton. We inserted Melvin,” Rivera said. “We’re looking at what group we’re going to insert this week and we’ll go with that.”
White, who had a forced fumble and an interception against the Giants in Week 3, worked with the first-team defense Tuesday. The former Louisiana-Lafayette player hopes to get the start Thursday night.
“Every person’s dream is to be a starter,” White said. “You don’t play in this league just to be a player. You play to be a starter.”
MITCHELL FEELS BAD: Free safety Mike Mitchell hates that Rams quarterback Sam Bradford sustained a season-ending knee injury late in Sunday’s game. But Mitchell said he was not trying to hurt Bradford when he pushed him out of bounds on a 1-yard scramble in the fourth quarter of the Panthers’ 30-15 win.
Mitchell asked Rivera to contact Rams coach Jeff Fisher to relay that message to Bradford.
“I want him to know man-to-man, I try to play this game with honor,” Mitchell said. “I do try to play it hard and physical. But I do try to play it with honor. I’m not out here trying to hurt anybody.”
Mitchell said he pushed Bradford, instead of tackling him, because he was mindful of the NFL’s rules protecting quarterbacks. But he said Bradford was in bounds when he pushed him.
Mitchell drew the ire of Rams offensive lineman Harvey Dahl by celebrating after the play, but Mitchell said he didn’t realize Bradford was hurt.
“I’m sitting in my house and I’m going through my Twitter and so many people were saying messed-up stuff,” Mitchell said. “I hope people – the people I care about especially – I don’t want them thinking that.”
KING FOR A DAY: Tavarres King, the newest member of the Panthers’ receiving corps, figured he might end up in Carolina. He just thought it might happen sooner.
King, the former Georgia wideout who was claimed off waivers from Denver this week, said he hit it off with Panthers receivers coach Ricky Proehl after a pre-draft workout in Athens earlier this year.
“There was pre-draft interest. I thought I might end up here draft time,” King said. “Luckily, I’m here now. It’s pretty exciting.”
After the Broncos drafted King in the fifth round, he caught five passes for 64 yards during the preseason. But he spent most of the regular season on the Broncos’ practice squad.
“Working with Peyton (Manning) and their offense gives him credibility,” Rivera said. “He came in today and showed his quickness, explosiveness and ability to snatch the ball.”
King, 6-1and 190 pounds, played in a school-record 56 games at Georgia. He is third on the school’s all-time list in receiving touchdowns (21) and fourth in receiving yards (2,602).
EDWARDS UPDATE: Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, who hasn’t played since Week 2 due to a hamstring injury, thought he was ready to return last week until experiencing a setback during his first practice in more than a month.
Edwards sat out again Tuesday, but said he would likely test the hamstring before the game Thursday to see if he can play.
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