For the past three weeks, Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Vernon Butler has been antsy.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve been out there,” Butler said with a half-grin and a shrug after Monday’s practice. “It was hard. Real antsy to get back out there.”
Butler missed three games with a high ankle sprain suffered against Minnesota. He returned to practice on Monday, the team’s first after a bye week. He said the rehab process went well, and he’s “no doubt” ready for Sunday’s matchup against the Arizona Cardinals (3-3-1).
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Butler said his rehab went well, but it wasn’t without frustration. Head coach Ron Rivera noted that part of that comes from the strides Butler was making as a rookie first-rounder from Louisiana Tech.
“He was doing a nice job, he really was,” said Rivera, adding that Butler’s injury was a disappointment to the player and coach alike based on his progress.
“He was picking up things. You know, he’ll be a step behing in terms of learning the techniques and just trying to recall. ... The thing is, he knows he’s got a lot to learn and that was really the main thing that bothered him. He was very eager to learn, he was doing the extra things. He was a willing participant in spending the extra time.”
Butler said his dad, Vernon Sr., and his teammates helped him with the patience aspect of the rehab process.
(People were telling me to) do the right things in rehab and not rush it because that might make things worse. And now I feel 100 percent.
Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Vernon Butler, practicing again after a high ankle sprain
“All the guys, they were supporting me,” he said. “Family back home ... saying to take my time, make sure I don’t rush it, do the right things in rehab and not rush it because that might make things worse. And now I feel 100 percent.”
Absent for part of a fourth consecutive week was left tackle Michael Oher, who is continuing through concussion protocol. Rivera and his staff hope Oher will be ready by Sunday.
“He’s going through the protocol right now,” Rivera said. “You know, he’s gotten better but again, it’s one of those processes. We went through it with Luke (Kuechly) last year.”
Kuechly missed three games while in the concussion protocol last season.
Mike Remmers has switched to left tackle from the right in Oher’s absence.
“I thought he’s looked good,” said Rivera. “The week off did him good. ...
“You know, the big thing right now obviously is that we’re going to go up against an aggressive style of defense and our guys are going to have to be ready for them coming after them from every different angle. The left tackle obviously does play an important role for us.”
Wide receiver Devin Funchess was also absent. Rivera said that he missed practice because of some “personal issues,” and that he was in the building, not elsewhere.