Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera expects three starters and one key contributor back on practice field Wednesday after the four missed the Tampa Bay game.
Defensive end Charles Johnson, running back DeAngelo Williams, linebacker Chase Blackburn and No. 2 tight end Ben Hartsock are all expected to return to practice this week.
Johnson has missed the past two games with a knee sprain, but he tweeted after Sunday’s win that he will be there “suited and booted” for New Orleans. Williams missed the Tampa Bay game with a quad contusion suffered against Miami, and Blackburn sat out a third game with a foot injury.
Rookie A.J. Klein has played well in place of Blackburn, and he had three tackles for losses against the Bucs on Sunday. Rivera gave no indication of what he’ll do at the weakside linebacker spot once Blackburn returns.
“We’ll see. We’re not giving anything to anybody, everybody’s earning they deserve,” Rivera said. “And I know Chase was playing very well before he got hurt too so it’s not like we’re going to substitute a guy that has no stats or hasn’t done well. We’re going to play the guys that are going to give us the best opportunity to win football games.”
Rivera was less optimistic about right guard Chris Scott, who’s missed the past four games with a knee sprain. He called Scott “up in the air” to return this week.
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