Panther Insider Slant

DE Mike Rucker played the first half of Sunday's game against New York. He should be ready for Saturday night's playoff game, although he might not be 100 percent.

The Panthers expect to have everyone available for Saturday night's playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys, although sack leader Mike Rucker might be limited in some of the things he can do on the field.

After missing two games with a second-degree MCL sprain, Rucker played the first half Sunday against the New York Giants and said his knee held up fine.

But Rucker admitted he isn't where he was prior to injuring the knee earlier this month in a Sunday night game against the Atlanta Falcons. "I'm a different guy right now," Rucker said. "I'm going to have to change up some of my moves. There are certain things I can't do right now."

But Rucker, who has waited six years for a chance to play in the postseason, said all he wants is a chance to play -- and that right now the knee is giving him that opportunity.

The Panthers talked about holding Rucker out of Sunday's game, but he pressed them to play.

"I didn't want to miss three straight weeks," Rucker said. "I wanted to come out and move around and do some cutting and banging on it. And we got that done. It probably would have been better if we waited, but I didn't want to do that. I wanted to get out there and not lose all of my timing."

Rucker said he wouldn't need surgery on the injured left knee after the season, just rest.

Meanwhile, two other defensive starters -- tackle Brentson Buckner (knee) and cornerback Terry Cousin (calf) - are expected to return this week after sitting out the last two games to get ready for the playoffs. However, Panthers coach John Fox hinted that Ricky Manning may start instead of Cousin.

Perhaps the most encouraging news for the Panthers was the play of running back Stephen Davis, who rushed for 57 yards on 11 carries in the first half before getting the rest of the night off. The Panthers didn't want Davis to risk re-injuring his ankle.

When Davis did play, he showed good balance and explosiveness in hitting the hole.

NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES

--RB Stephen Davis is expected to practice on Wednesday and start Saturday night's playoff game against the Cowboys. Davis has struggled with a nagging ankle injury most of the second half of the season.

--C Jeff Mitchell played in the first half of Sunday's game and is expected to start against the Cowboys. Mitchell is the leader of Carolina's offensive line and the team's only starter who owns a Super Bowl ring.

--LB Dan Morgan has made a huge difference for Carolina's defense the past two games as the Panthers limited the Detroit Lions to 105 yards and the New York Giants to 175 yards. The Panthers have not allowed a touchdown drive of longer than seven yards in the past two games.

--DE Mike Rucker played the first half of Sunday's game against New York. He should be ready for Saturday night's playoff game, although he might not be 100 percent.

--CB Terry Cousin did not play Sunday because of a calf injury, but the Panthers hope to have him back for the playoffs. However, Ricky Manning may continue to start over Cousin.

--CB Ricky Manning could start this week over Terry Cousin, according to coach John Fox.

--DT Brentson Buckner did not play Sunday, but the Panthers hope two weeks off will leave him rested and ready to go in the playoffs.

--K John Kasay has made all seven field-goal attempts since missing three in one game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

--WR Muhsin Muhammad continues to improve for the Panthers down the stretch, showing he can make tough catches in traffic.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It's going to be electric. I know the fans are excited about what we've done. I hope they get excited because Saturday night is going to be something special." -- Panthers DT Brentson Buckner on Carolina playing host to a playoff game on prime time Saturday night against Dallas.


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