Charles Johnson’s first game snaps will come at Jacksonville in Week 1, assuming he’s ready for the season opener.
Johnson, the Panthers’ left defensive end, is not traveling to Pittsburgh for Thursday’s exhibition finale, according to a source. Johnson missed the first three preseason games with a strained calf, then injured a muscle in his upper back Sunday and sat out the next two practices.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera and Johnson both said they hoped Johnson could play in at least one exhibition before the Sept. 13 game at Jacksonville.
Johnson, 29, the Panthers’ most experienced pass-rusher, was bothered by an injury last preseason as well. He played in only one exhibition due to a hamstring issue, then was held without a sack for the first month of the regular season.
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While Johnson finished with a team-leading 8.5 sacks, it was his lowest total since becoming a full-time starter in 2010.