Inside the Panthers

Will former Panthers first-rounder Vernon Butler be inactive again? Tea leaves say ...

The Carolina Panthers’ first-round draft pick from last year is healthy, has no known physical issues and ... no guarantees he’ll get a jersey Thursday night.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera was noncommittal when asked whether second-year defensive tackle Vernon Butler would be active for the nationally televised game against the Eagles.

The former Louisiana Tech standout was inactive for Sunday’s victory at Detroit.

“That’s something we’re going through as coaches,” Rivera said Wednesday in response to a question about Butler.

Butler didn’t want to discuss last week’s situation when he was a healthy scratch, saying he didn’t have a “say-so” in the decision.

And though Rivera was uncertain about Butler’s status for the Eagles game, Butler said he had “no doubt” he’d play against Philadelphia.

Butler, the 30th pick in the 2016 draft, had a disappointing rookie season. He missed five games with a high ankle sprain, was inactive for another game and finished with just 11 tackles and 1.5 sacks.

Butler told the Observer in July he expected a breakout season, saying “this year is going to be way different than last year.”

But Butler has yet to make an impact in a defensive tackle rotation that includes starters Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei and veteran reserve Kyle Love.

Playing less than a third of the defensive snaps in the three games he’s been active (he missed the opener at San Francisco with a knee injury), Butler has managed just three tackles without a sack or a quarterback pressure.

Earlier this week Rivera said coaches decided to go with an extra edge rusher (Bryan Cox Jr.) against Lions QB Matthew Stafford. Rivera added that it was easier for a defensive end to play inside than vice versa.

Rivera said making Butler inactive was not injury-related, which Butler confirmed Wednesday.

“Everything feels great,” he said. “My body feels good, ready to go.”

Whether he gets a chance against Philadelphia remains to be seen.

Joseph Person: 704-358-5123, @josephperson

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