Carolina Panthers

Carolina Panthers will start DE Charles Johnson vs. Cowboys

Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson (95), just back from temporary injured reserve, will start Thursday against the Cowboys in Dallas.
Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson (95), just back from temporary injured reserve, will start Thursday against the Cowboys in Dallas. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

With the return of defensive end Charles Johnson to the active roster, the Carolina Panthers will shake up the defensive line rotations slightly for Thursday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys.

Johnson will start at one of the two defensive end slots along with Jared Allen, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said after Wednesday’s walkthrough.

“He’s excited,” Rivera said of Johnson, who has 63.5 career sacks in nine seasons with Carolina. “He had a good week of practice. He’s smiling and ready to roll.”

Johnson, who has spent the past eight weeks on temporary injured reserve after suffering a hamstring injury in Week 3, will start at right defensive end, with Allen on the left side.

That will move third-year defensive end Kony Ealy, who has four sacks in the past four games as a starter, to a key reserve role. Rivera said Johnson will likely be limited to 30 snaps.

“The biggest thing we have to do though is to be smart – we can’t overuse him,” Rivera said. “But in this situation and in this role, with the players that we have and the guys have been playing well, we can be smart. We don’t want to overwork him and put him in a bad situation.”

Jansen gets OK to play

Long snapper J.J. Jansen was back on the field a day after team officials were worried that he may have to go through the NFL’s concussion protocol.

Jansen was one of the first players out for the Wednesday morning walkthrough. He was limited during Tuesday’s workout after complaining of a light headache.

“I wasn’t feeling good, and I went to talk with RV (head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion) and the doctors,” said Jansen, who has played in 106 consecutive games since the start of the 2009 season. “We talked through some things, and they wanted to see how I was feeling. But I woke up this morning, and I was feeling a lot better.

“I’m good. I feel good and ready to go.”

As a precaution, the Panthers signed free-agent long snapper Danny Aiken to the 53-man roster Wednesday, and he worked out with the team during the morning walkthrough.

Aiken made 63 game appearances over four seasons as the starting long snapper with the New England Patriots, winning Super Bowl XLIX last year. But the Patriots chose not to resign Aiken during the off season.

Injury updates: CB Charles Tillman listed as doubtful

Panthers cornerback Charles Tillman was again listed as doubtful on the injury report, and will likely not play in Thursday’s game against the Cowboys. Tillman missed last week’s game against Washington with a hyperextended knee, with Bené Benwikere starting in his place and backup safety Colin Jones coming in as the nickel back.

Wide receiver Corey Brown is questionable with a shoulder injury. He also missed the Panthers’ win over Washington on Sunday.

Guard Andrew Norwell is probable after missing three games with a hamstring injury. Also listed as probable are Jansen, defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (ankle) and wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. (knee).

Cam gets 2nd NFC player of week award

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton was named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday.

It was the second time this season and a franchise-record fifth time in Newton’s career that he’s earned the weekly conference award. He also earned the award after Carolina’s Week 9 victory over the Packers.

Newton threw a career-best five touchdown passes – four in the first half – in the Panthers’ 44-16 victory over Washington on Sunday. He finished 21 of 34 passes for 246 yards, with a season-high passer rating of 123.3.

It’s also the fourth time this season that a Panthers player has earned a weekly conference award. Cornerback Josh Norman was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week on Week 4, and defensive tackle Kawann Short earned the same award for Week 6.

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