Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera typically does not play his starters much – if at all – in the final preseason game.
But Rivera is taking an even more cautious approach to Thursday’s exhibition finale against Pittsburgh, which falls a week before the season opener at Denver on Sept. 8.
The Panthers sat defensive tackle Kawann Short and three other starters for the team’s final preseason practice Tuesday rather than run the risk of injury. Short missed his third consecutive practice with what Rivera has described as soreness.
But Rivera said Short “without a doubt” would play at Denver, and indicated he expects him to be at Wednesday’s walkthrough.
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“It’s just one of those things where ... the trainers said, ‘We just want to give him a few days,’” Rivera said. “So I’m not going to argue with it, especially now.”
Defensive end Charles Johnson, center Ryan Kalil and running back Jonathan Stewart all were given the day off, and backup quarterback Derek Anderson remained sidelined with lingering soreness from last week’s game against New England.
Rivera said No. 3 quarterback Joe Webb likely will play the entire game against the Steelers while Cam Newton and Anderson rest.
Several key players suffered serious or season-ending injuries during exhibitions last week, including Dallas quarterback Tony Romo (back) and Baltimore tight end Benjamin Watson (Achilles).
After losing No. 1 receiver Kelvin Benjamin to a season-ending knee injury last summer, the Panthers have avoided any serious injuries to their starters this summer.
“You can’t be too careful with guys, especially this time of year,” Rivera said. “Look throughout the league and you see what happened to a lot of teams in Week 3 and you have concern. So for us we have a quick turnaround, too. ... A week later we’re going to be in Denver.”