Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson was on crutches with a brace on his right knee Wednesday. But the consensus around Bank of America Stadium was that it could have been worse.
Johnson was injured in the third quarter Monday night in the 24-20 win against New England when Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon leg-whipped him but was not penalized. He was carted to the locker room and sat out a couple of series before returning for the Patriots last drive.
An MRI exam on Tuesday revealed a sprained MCL. Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Johnson was relieved he had not torn any ligaments.
Were very fortunate. He sprained it and well see as each day goes on. Well re-evaluate after three days and see how hes reacting to the treatment, Rivera said. The biggest thing is hes really sore right now. Its about getting the soreness and the swelling out more so than anything else.
Johnsons status is week-to-week, and it seems unlikely he would play Sunday at Miami. Rivera compared the injury to the knee sprain sustained by backup tight end Ben Hartsock, who missed the Patriots game but could be back this week.
Mario Addison, Frank Alexander and undrafted rookie Wes Horton are the candidates to replace Johnson, who is second in the NFC with 8.5 sacks and has 21 sacks in his past 23 games.
Hes playing very well right now, Rivera said. Hes playing about as well as any defensive end in this league.
Final word on final play: Lost in the controversy surrounding the pass interference call/no-call on the last play against New England was this: middle linebacker Luke Kuechlys failure to play the ball against tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Kuechly, who had a costly pass interference penalty during Buffalos game-winning drive in Week 2, lined up 15 yards off the line of scrimmage and ended up essentially face-guarding Gronkowski on Tom Bradys pass.
If I was going to scrutinize anything about that play, I would like to have seen Luke trust himself a little bit more. He was in great position, Rivera said. As a coach looking at it, the only thing I wouldve told him is just get your head around. Because he was on the hip, he was underneath and he was in the throwing lane.
Kuechly is tied for the team lead with three interceptions, all of which were on short passes. Kuechly agreed his technique could have been better on the much-discussed play against the Patriots.
If I get my head around sooner, I can see the ball, Kuechly said. Thats what youve got to do moving forward.
Ginn goes home again: Receiver Ted Ginn Jr. will have his second homecoming game in a 15-day span at Miami, which drafted Ginn ninth overall in 2007. Ginn spent three years in Miami, catching passes from five starting quarterbacks, before being traded to San Francisco for a fifth-round pick after the 09 season.
The Dolphins used three quarterbacks in 2007 Cleo Lemon, Trent Green and John Beck when they went 1-15 during Ginns rookie year. He said its different being in Charlotte with a franchise quarterback in Cam Newton.
When you come in you know what youre dealing with. Where you come in (to Miami), you might have a guy coming off the streets and he might be your starter for the week, Ginn said. Its just the time and the situations. They moved past it, we moved past it. Its over with. Its done.
Ginn was fired up when the Panthers faced San Francisco, where he caught only two passes last year. After a long punt return that set up Graham Ganos game-winning field goal, Ginn stared at the 49ers bench and spun the ball.
Ginn was not in the mood to reminisce Wednesday.
Asked about his memories from Miami, Ginn first mentioned the heat. He said his highlight was a 2009 game against the Jets when Ginn returned two kickoffs for touchdowns of 100 and 101 yards, tying an NFL record.
Blackburn improving: Outside linebacker Chase Blackburn said his injured foot is improving, but he doesnt expect to play against the Dolphins. Blackburn, who has started six games, is hoping to return for the Dec. 1 game against Tampa Bay.
Blackburn had the cast removed from his right foot and is wearing a protective boot.
I definitely feel progress, he said. I need to get a couple practices no matter what to just get back in the flow. And A.J. (Klein) is playing well. I dont like missing time. Ive only missed a few games in my career. I dont enjoy it, but sometimes its part of the game.
Blackburn was among five players who missed Wednesdays walkthrough. The others were Johnson, Hartsock, cornerback Drayton Florence (groin) and guard Chris Scott (knee).
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