Roman Harper isn’t a guy who likes to discuss his injury.
In his nine years in the league, he’s picked up a philosophy that injuries stay in-house, and he doesn’t talk about them with reporters. So the turf toe that has kept him sidelined since Aug. 1 isn’t up for discussion.
“It’s good,” Harper said about his toe. “Well we’re going to go to the next subject.”
Let’s stay on the subject. Harper injured his toe in the first week of training camp, and eventually it morphed into turf toe, which is essentially sprained ligaments around the big toe.
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Harper, who signed a two-year, $4.5 million deal with the Panthers in the spring after the Saints released him, hasn’t had any game action with Carolina. And though he’s running more now than he has since the injury, Harper may not see the field until Week 1 at Tampa Bay.
That doesn’t concern Harper, who said he’s still able to communicate with his secondary teammates on the sideline, in walk-throughs and in the meeting rooms.
His absence from the field doesn’t concern starting outside linebacker Thomas Davis, either. Davis has history with taking mental reps after coming back from three ACL surgeries, and said he believes Harper will be ready when he’s healthy.
“You can’t really replicate the speed of the game and making calls on the run, but you can do the best that you possibly can,” Davis said. “With his situation and not being able to get in the game right now, he’s a true pro. He understands this defense now, and he understands the calls that need to be made and we feel confident that he’s going to do his job.”
Harper’s NFL career has a mild injury history. After starting the first five games of his rookie season in 2006, Harper tore the ACL in his left leg and missed the remainder of the year.
He missed just two games between 2007 and 2012, but he sat out seven games in 2013 with a knee injury.
The Panthers had been giving Harper rest days for his knee early in camp, and he participated in less than a half-dozen camp practices before sitting out at the start of August with the toe injury.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera didn’t express concern for Harper’s regular-season availability when asked Tuesday. The coach likened Harper to fellow veteran safety Quintin Mikell, who signed with Carolina a week before the 2013 regular-season opener and played 14 games.
“I see Roman Harper in the same vein,” Rivera said. “This is a very veteran guy that knows a lot of football. I think he’s going to be OK. The thing that he has over Quintin is that he was here for (organized team activities) and minicamp as well. It’s not like he’s coming off fresh and not knowing anything.”
What Harper knows is football, and he’s not worried about playing in a new defensive scheme with new teammates. There are only so many ways to play cover-2 or man-to-man, he said.
“I know Xs and Os,” Harper said. “I think the guys understand that and the coaches and everybody trusts me to be on top of my game when I come back.”