Carolina Panthers

New candidate emerges to earn start for Panthers at right tackle

A Carolina Panthers player will get his first crack at starting at right tackle in the NFL this week.

It’s just not the player everyone expected earlier this week.

With Amini Silatolu’s swollen knee making him doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Vikings, the Panthers will start Mike Remmers at right tackle.

Remmers was signed off the St. Louis Rams’ practice squad in late October and will see his first action for the Panthers this week. The second-year player has played four regular-season NFL snaps in his career.

The Panthers were prepared to start Silatolu, a more natural guard, at right tackle this week. But after being limited in practice on Wednesday, Silatolu’s knee swelling went from bad to worse on Friday and he didn’t practice for two days.

Remmers won the position battle over Chris Scott, another natural guard.

“We’ve watched him the last few weeks with interest because of the situation we’ve had,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “We’ve kind of been looking for the right opportunity to put him in this position. The last couple of weeks, (offensive line coaches John) Matsko and (Ray) Brown have really paid attention in terms of working with him.”

Carolina is Remmers’ sixth stop in his short career. Signed as an undrafted rookie by Denver, he’s been with the Buccaneers, Chargers, Vikings and the Rams.

He played in one game for the Chargers but suffered knee and ankle injuries that sidelined him.

“Obviously I was really frustrated with that going down so early, and I was always hoping that I’d get another chance and I’m very thankful to be getting another opportunity to show everyone what I can do,” Remmers said.

Injury update: Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (knee) is doubtful along with Silatolu.

Defensive end Charles Johnson did not practice again Friday due to an “upper respiratory flu,” Rivera said. The coach was hopeful Johnson will be healthy enough to play, but Johnson is listed as questionable.

Cornerback Bene Benwikere (ankle), receiver Philly Brown (illness), guard Andrew Norwell (thigh) and fullback Mike Tolbert (knee) participated fully in Friday’s practice and are probable for the game.

Presley’s chance: Former Appalachian State quarterback De’Andre Presley will get his first NFL chance at receiver this week, Rivera said.

Presley, who worked his way off the physically-unable-to-perform list this preseason, will be active for Sunday’s game and see time at receiver, and he may get an opportunity at punt return.

Last week the Panthers cut veteran receiver Jason Avant in an effort to clear room for Presley, who offers a better option for speed. Paired with Brown, Presley gives the Panthers more quickness at receiver.

“He and Philly are two vertical guys, two fast guys underneath and again, the one thing we talked about a week ago was to create opportunities to get more speed on the field,” Rivera said.

Baby, it’s cold: The Panthers are set to play in what will surely be the second-coldest game in team history Sunday.

Temperatures are expected to be in the teens at kickoff, and it will affect players on both sides of the ball.

The Vikings practiced indoors all week, so they didn’t get an opportunity to get used to the cold. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton likely won’t wear gloves after practicing this week without them.

Punter Brad Nortman played in a handful of cold games at the University of Wisconsin, but nothing as cold as this.

“(The ball) is harder. It doesn’t compress quite as well,” Nortman said. “It’s something I’m relatively familiar with, and most punters in the NFL have played in cold games. You can feel the difference but luckily if you still try to conduct your form each time, there’s still a sweet spot somewhere in there.”

Remmers, who was on the Vikings practice squad in 2013, has been growing out his beard for more than a year. He said he wasn’t doing it in preparation for this game, though.

“It’ll probably be frozen in about five seconds,” Remmers said.

“I remember one time I got in my car it was negative 17 and your mustache literally freezes once you step outside. It gets a little chilly out there but it’s not a factor. You just have to play football.”