While most of the Carolina Panthers’ injury news in recent weeks has been about the shifting offensive line, Monday’s practice actually saw the return of the team’s most veteran player.
Defensive end Julius Peppers, who has been working his way back from offseason surgery, was cleared to practice over the weekend and participated in team drills Monday for the first time this summer. Peppers had labrum surgery on his right shoulder in the spring and missed all of OTA’s and minicamp.
“He looked good out there, it’s good to have him out there,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “We’re kind of easing him into things. Yesterday he did some individual, today he did a couple of the team drills, and we’ll just increase it as each day goes by.”
The team originally placed Peppers, 38, on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to begin training camp, but general manager Marty Hurney said at the time the move was being “cautious.”
Peppers has since worked with trainers on the side of practice, all with the goal of being healthy enough to play on Sept. 9, in Week 1 against the Dallas Cowboys. Last season, Peppers accrued 11 sacks while working as a situational pass-rusher, a role Rivera said he envisions for Peppers this season as well.
But there’s still time before Peppers is all the way back. For now, the team — Rivera included — will just take the morale boost that comes with Peppers’ return.
“For me it does,” Rivera joked. “But I think it does for everybody, just to see him out there, to see his presence on the field. He’s been terrific in terms of his workouts, his rehab workouts, and then his workouts getting ready for yesterday and today.”
Another offensive line shakeup
A week after left tackle Matt Kalil had an arthroscopic procedure on his right knee, the Panthers were without another offensive lineman on Monday.
Reserve lineman Jeremiah Sirles, who started at right tackle in Carolina’s 25-14 victory over the New England Patriots on Friday, missed practice with hamstring soreness. Sirles originally left Friday’s game with a hamstring injury during Carolina’s first offensive possession. He was then replaced by Blaine Clausell.
Sirles was starting in place of second-year man Taylor Moton, who slid from right to left tackle in the wake of Kalil’s injury. Moton was originally filling in at right tackle for Daryl Williams (torn MCL/dislocated patella), making Sirles the team’s third right tackle since the start of training camp.
Carolina is also still missing guard Amini Silatolu (torn meniscus), so Greg Van Roten has filled in at left guard in the interim.
Sirles said Monday he was feeling better, but his status for Thursday’s final preseason game is still up in the air.
Injury roundup and vet days
In addition to injury holdovers such as Williams, Silatolu, Chris Manhertz (fractured foot), Jason Vander Laan (knee), and Da’Norris Searcy (concussion protocol), several others were held out of the open portion of practice.
Fullback Alex Armah, cornerback Kevon Seymour, receiver Damiere Byrd, and defensive end Marquis Haynes were all working with trainers. Rivera said Byrd experienced some soreness over the weekend, so the team gave him a vet/rest day Monday. Seymour was previously recovering from a root canal, but Rivera said Seymour also was dealing with some other soreness.