The Panthers waited two months hoping left tackle Michael Oher’s post-concussion symptoms would improve.
But with only six games remaining and in need of a roster spot, the waiting game ended Friday when the Panthers placed the veteran player of “The Blind Side” fame on injured reserve.
The move came eight weeks to the day after Oher first told the team he was experiencing head issues. Oher entered the concussion protocol prior to the Week 4 game at Atlanta and was scarcely seen again, except for walking a couple of laps around the practice fields a few weeks ago.
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“We did everything we could and tried to just be with him and help him out as much. It’s tough. It’s just one of those things,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “The further along you go, the tougher it’s going to be to get him back in shape. So we just feel this is the best thing for him.”
Rivera did not address Oher’s long-term future.
Attempts to reach Oher and his agent Drew Rosenhaus were unsuccessful.
Oher, 30, signed a three-year contract extension in June worth $21.6 million, including a guaranteed $9.5 million. The Panthers owe Oher nearly $13 million over the next three seasons.
Rivera has said he’s uncertain when Oher was injured.
A source said Oher began experiencing headaches after the Week 2 game against San Francisco. But he played the following week against Minnesota, giving up three sacks and being called for a holding penalty.
The Observer reported last week Oher was experiencing sensitivity to light, as well as issues involving his vestibular ocular system, which is responsible for integrating vision, movement and balance.
Oher visited a highly regarded concussion clinic in Pittsburgh twice in recent weeks. His progression through the protocol appeared to hit a standstill, if not a setback, after his appearances at practice.
The long layoff has prompted speculation about whether Oher will play again.
The Memphis native, whose rags-to-riches story became the subject of a best-selling book and subsequent 2009 movie, responded with a sharply worded Instagram post last month.
“(W)ho in the Hell said I was walking away from this great game...born broke homeless did every hustle there is known to man,” Oher posted. “(A)fter I signed my 1st check I’ve been playing this game only because I love it of course I’m going through something that can put a end to all my dreams but of all means I’m going to battle til the death of me!”
The Panthers made a flurry of personnel moves Friday before their 10-day, two-game trip to the West Coast. Rivera said it was necessary to remove Oher from the 53-man, active roster and move on.
“This takes pressure off of everything. We’re not worried about it,” Rivera said. “We just want to see the young man get healthy.”