Jared Allen has only missed two games in his 12-year pro career due to injury. Sunday will likely be the third.
The recently acquired defensive end suffered a pinched nerve in his lower back two weeks ago that has kept him out of practice all week. And when players don’t practice on Thursday, rarely do they play on Sunday.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said unless “everything’s great” on Friday morning, Allen will not travel with the team to Seattle.
“It’s unfortunate if not because he’s a veteran guy who knows how to do things and you want him on the field,” Rivera said. “But we have to be realistic because at the end of it we have 11 left to play. So we’ll be smart.”
Allen has said if he’s standing, he’ll be able to play. But the injury has caused him to lose some feeling in his left leg and foot.
“I hope I don’t have to miss one, so we’ll see what happens,” Allen said. “Again, that’s up to the coaching staff.”
In Allen’s place will be defensive end Wes Horton, who just two weeks ago was released by the Panthers. He was brought back in two days in a game of musical chairs that regularly happens in the league.
Going into the Tampa Bay game, the Panthers were thin at offensive tackle. They brought up David Foucault from the practice squad and released Horton, whom they hoped would go unclaimed on waivers.
They were right, and Horton signed with the team and Foucault went back to the practice squad.
“As soon as I cleared waivers they were the first ones to call,” Horton said. “It all worked out well. It was a little weird – a little eerie – being out on the street without a job but I made it through it and I’m just glad to be back.”
Horton will get the start along with Kony Ealy as the Panthers look for run-stuffing ends against Seattle over pass rushers on first and second downs. At 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, Horton has done well against Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, containing the rush on the edge and even forcing a Lynch fumble in a playoff game last season.
“With a guy that can run as powerful as him, they teach us to tackle big and wrap big,” Horton said. “On that one play I was able to wrap him up high and I was able to pop that ball right out. That’s what they’re telling us to do.”