Carolina Panthers

Panthers’ Kugbila’s string of bad injury luck continues

Carolina Panthers guard Edmund Kugbila will have spinal surgery Friday in New York, the latest in a string of health issues for the second-year player.

Kugbila, the Panthers’ fourth-round pick from Division II Valdosta State in 2013, said the surgery is to repair cracks in his spinal cord. He said he’s not sure if it’s a chronic condition or developed recently.

Despite the sensitive nature of spinal surgery and a history of injuries since he entered the NFL, Kugbila said he has given no thought to retiring.

“Not really,” he said Sunday. “I love the game too much. I’m not really focused on that.”

Kugbila, on injured reserve for the second consecutive year, has yet to play in an NFL exhibition or regular-season game.

Friday’s surgery, which will be performed by spinal specialist Paul McCormick, will be Kugbila’s fourth since the spring of 2013. He had arthroscopic surgery in May to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.

After being sidelined with a strained hamstring early in training camp last year, he re-injured his knee in August and had reconstructive surgery in September on the posterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments.

When the knee began swelling during rehab, Kugbila had minor, clean-out surgery.

Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said recently Kugbila has worked hard in his various rehabs, but has been a victim of bad luck.

“It’s all right,” Kugbila said. “God’s got me.”

Injury update: Fourteen Panthers sat out for various injuries or rest, and the most concerning to coach Ron Rivera was rookie safety Tre Boston.

Boston pulled his groin in his first practice of camp on Tuesday and has not been able to go since. Rivera said Boston is still “really sore” but added he will not need surgery.

Boston had surgery for a sports hernia shortly after the team drafted him.

Greg Hardy (shoulder) and Charles Johnson (hamstring) didn’t practice, but Rivera expects them back on the field Tuesday. Running back Jonathan Stewart (hamstring) will be evaluated Tuesday.

Receiver Tavarres King had sore legs and sat out.


• After a physical, up-tempo practice Saturday, Sunday’s practice was toned down dramatically as the team eased into its day off Monday.

• Defensive end Kony Ealy said he liked the jawing quarterback Cam Newton provided Saturday and that it made him better. Ealy was fatigued toward the end of practice because of the heat and added reps without Johnson and Hardy on the field.

• Tiquan Underwood made a nice sliding catch on a pass from Derek Anderson. Underwood has shown better hands this weekend than in the rest of camp.

• Linebacker Luke Kuechly had a big pass breakup in the red zone. He batted down a pass from Newton to Greg Olsen and almost came away with an interception.

• Kuechly still needs to work on pass coverage outside of the red zone. On back-to-back days, he threw his hands in the air and stomped his feet after missing an assignment.

• Rookie receiver Kelvin Benjamin still hasn’t dropped a pass during team drills in camp. Though it was far out of bounds, Benjamin made a nice catch against Colin Jones.

• There were consecutive drops by running backs during team drills. Mike Tolbert dropped a shovel pass from Newton, then Darrin Reaves dropped a dump-off from Anderson.

• Rookie cornerback Bene’ Benwikere skied for a high Newton pass and tipped it away from intended receiver Jerricho Cotchery. Benwikere had the second-best vertical jump (40.5 inches) at the combine among cornerbacks.

• The biggest collision of the day came when Toney Clemons caught a Newton pass and was undercut by Josh Thomas. Clemons went to the ground hard but got up quickly after holding on to the ball.

• Safety Robert Lester picked off a deep Anderson pass to Brandon Williams with ease.

Getting to know ...

TE Mike McNeill

Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-4, 240

College: Nebraska

NFL experience: Fourth year

The scoop: McNeill signed as a free agent during the offseason after spending his first three years with St. Louis. He was a blocking specialist with the Rams, with five career receptions for 36 yards. McNeill is one of six tight ends in camp, and is likely battling TE/FB Richie Brockel and second-year player Brandon Williams for one of the final spots behind starter Greg Olsen and No. 2 TE Ed Dickson.

Twitter handle: @Mike_McNeill82

Recent tweet: Hasta luego STL. Charlotte bound and ready to work! #GrindTime