The Carolina Panthers will likely miss two star players and an up-and-comer for spring team sessions, although the timeline is trending positively for all three.
Veteran defensive end Julius Peppers and All-Pro linebacker Luke Kuechly both had offseason shoulder surgery to repair torn labrums in their right shoulders.
They will continue to rehabilitate them on-campus with Carolina training staff through the organized team activity period and possibly through minicamp.
And receiver Curtis Samuel, last spring’s second-round draft pick, continues to rehabilitate a surgically-repaired ankle that suffered ligament damage in a freak incident during the Panthers’ game against Miami in Week 10 against Miami.
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Samuel’s projected return date is cloudy because of the nature of the injury. Earlier, the Panthers’ team website published a report that hoped he’d be back by training camp this summer.
“I don’t have a timetable (for Samuel) as much as I know they’ve gotten him running around a little bit,” said Panthers coach Ron Rivera, speaking at the NFL league meetings’ coaches breakfast on Tuesday.
“Straight-ahead (running), very much so. Not a lot of cutting and breaking right now. I think they’re just slowly working him back in that process.”
The Panthers added receivers Torrey Smith and Jarius Wright in free agency as a flanker and slot receiver, respectively. Rivera indicated that the moves not only create depth where it’s needed, but also give Samuel an opportunity to work back into the rotation at a pace not detrimental to his physical recovery.
“That’s one of the things that we wanted to do,” Rivera said. “We’ve got a lot of young players that we still want to find out about, but at the same time, by putting a couple of key veteran guys, Torrey, Jarius, putting those guys in place, guys that have either had experience in this league or in Jarius’ case having played for Norv (Turner), he can explain things, get them to understand what is expected.”