Carolina Panthers

Panthers turn to familiar face to fill Fozzy Whittaker’s role at running back

Running back Kenjon Barner played last season for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Running back Kenjon Barner played last season for the Philadelphia Eagles. AP

The Panthers moved quickly to fill injured running back Fozzy Whittaker's role, reaching into their past to sign former Carolina back Kenjon Barner to a 1-year deal Friday.

Whittaker, a third-down back and kick returner, tore his ACL making a cut during a non-contact drill at an OTA practice earlier this week. He was placed on injured reserve Thursday.

The Panthers drafted Barner in the sixth round in 2013, but former general manager Dave Gettleman traded him to Philadelphia after his rookie season. The former Oregon back was a return specialist on the Eagles' Super-Bowl winning team last year, and brought back three kicks for 73 yards against New England in Super Bowl 52.

Barner, 29, has spent most of his career as a returner, posting an 8.6-yard average on punts and a 22.6-yard average on kickoffs.

While several former Panthers have criticized Gettleman's handling of their exits, Barner told the Observer during Super Bowl week he had nothing bad to say about Gettleman or Panthers coach Ron Rivera.

"I have the utmost respect for those guys and the way they handled my situation because they didn’t have to,” Barner said. “I can’t speak for everybody else’s situation. Everybody else is different. But for me, I respect those guys and I have absolutely nothing but love for those guys.”

Panthers fan Lynn Leonhardt lost her husband earlier in the year. In an outreach of support, Panthers players surprised her with a performance of 'Lean On Me' while she was on a tour of the stadium.

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson