Safety Net

It was confirmed on Friday that FS Mike Minter suffered a second-degree sprain on his left knee during contract drills yesterday. Minter is believed to be out for up to a week. He will have an MRI tomorrow as a precaution. "He'll be day-to-day," Coach Fox said after practice on Friday. "It's a second-degree sprain and will not require surgery. Usually when it's something bad, they require surgery. This will require just rehab and rest."

Currently, there is no pegged "starter" primed to take Minters' position until he returns. "They (free and strong safety) are interchangeable and they will all get opportunities," Coach Fox said of the Safety situation. "We lost a guy in the rotation, and that is all that really happened from a structure standpoint. At this time, we don't have anyone as the outright starter. They are still competing for jobs now. We'll just rotate them through there."

The top safety spots are likely going to Minter and first round pick Thomas Davis, however free agent signees Marlon McCree and Idrees Bashir will figure into the Panthers on-field plans. In the past, the Panthers really haven't had much depth at safety. This year, it's much different.

Idrees Bashir has started in all 51 regular season games of his career with the Colts before signing with the Panthers earlier this year. "He has been a starter in the League", Fox said. "He has pretty good ball skills and is a good center fielder. He has got good size and speed plus he's a productive player on special teams. We needed to bolster that group and we did."

Marlon McCree is was a player the Panthers had previously been intrigued by in the past. Waived in 2003 by the Jaguars, the Panthers submitted a waiver wire request for his services, only to lose him to Houston, who had precedence in the waiver wire order. "He has started in the League before," Fox said. "He's been a real savvy and solid back-up in the League as well as an outstanding performer in the kicking game. That's what back-up defensive players have got to do. He's been around a little bit and knows how to play the game."

Ben Emanuel was drafted in the fifth round of last spring's draft, and is noted as an exceptional athlete with great potential. The numbers crunch at safety might force him to the practice squad for a year as he learns the pro game.

Colin Branch is the guy no one is talking about, however. Last year's starter at FS, Branch is currently battling Thomas Davis for a starting spot. Branch played much of last season with a cast on his right hand, which hindered his tackling ability. He's been given a chance to showcase his skills all offseason from mini camps through the start of training camp, however how long he remains a starter is anyone's guess.

Minter shouldn't be out long, but the silver lining in this situation is that his absence will give valuable reps to several youngsters chomping at the bit for playing time.

"I think we've definitely bolstered our talent at that position," said Fox about his Safeties. "In the draft, we added Thomas Davis and Ben Emanuel. In free agency, we brought in both Marlon McCree and Idrees Bashir. They give us some veteran play there, and Colin Branch is a year better. I think we've got good depth at that position. With Mike on the shelf for a little bit, that gives these guys some more opportunities."

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