Rival Report: Panthers Dealing with Injuries

The Vikings' next opponent, the Carolina Panthers, came away from their game against Atlanta with bruised egos and injured players. We check in with the Panthers.

The Panthers placed offensive tackle Travelle Wharton on injured reserve Tuesday and signed free agent offensive tackle Jeremy Bridges to take his place on the 53-man roster.

The 6-foot-4, 325-pound Bridges is not expected to start for the Panthers, but could eventually work into a backup role if he shows promise.

Carolina is likely to move right tackle Jordan Gross to left tackle and bring Todd Fordham off the bench to play right tackle.

Bridges spent the past two seasons with the Arizona Cardinals before being released during training camp this season. He played in 21 games with 11 starts for Arizona during that span. However, the Cardinals have typically had one of the league's worst offensive lines.

Originally drafted from Southern Mississippi in the sixth round in 2003 by Philadelphia, Bridges was inactive for all 16 games as a rookie.

Wharton, who had started the last 20 games for the Panthers at left tackle, tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee during Carolina's 20-6 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

It marked the third straight season the Panthers have not only lost their home opener, but also lost a key starter to a season-ending injury on the same day.

In 2004, the Panthers lost wide receiver Steve Smith in a loss to Green Bay on Monday night. Last year, the Panthers lost defensive tackle Kris Jenkins while dropping a game to the New Orleans Saints.

NOTES

  • Coach John Fox offered no update on the Steve Smith injury situation on Monday except to clarify that his injury is considered a hamstring strain, not a pull or a tear.

    "We'll evaluate him day-to-day," Fox said. "When he is deemed healthy, he will be out there. Until then, it's more of the same."

    The Panthers had Tuesday off and return to practice Wednesday.

  • After studying tape of the Atlanta game, Fox was asked what went wrong with the Panthers run defense, which gave up 252 yards on the ground to Warrick Dunn and the Falcons.

    "Really just guys not believing what they see," Fox said. "A couple of errors as far as blitzes. Guys were too far upfield, not inside a couple times. We didn't execute as well.

    "At times it looked great and at times it didn't look great. You've got to make it look great every time and we didn't do that."

  • The Panthers have opened the season at home the last three years and have lost all three times.

    "They're all unique," Fox said when asked for an explanation. "Every game takes on a new personality, whether it's the opener, the last one, the middle one. Lots of times it's who you are and who they are. They were better than us yesterday."

  • First-round draft pick DeAngelo Williams didn't get to showcase his skills on Sunday, failing to carry the ball once for the Panthers. But Fox said that wasn't by design.

    "I don't think we ran the ball much the last 20 minutes of the game because of the score," Fox said.

    Fox was vague on whether Williams might see an increased role this week against Minnesota.

    "We'll evaluate that as we move forward with the game plan," Fox said.

  • No matter who the Panthers put at left tackle, they had trouble blocking John Abraham, who played like a man possessed until leaving late in the game with an apparent leg injury.

    Abraham had two sacks, two forced fumbles and one deflected pass.

    "He's a good pass rusher," Gross said. "We knew that this week. Everybody knows that. He hit me with a couple of good moves a few times. He did a good job and I've got to do better if I'm going to be playing him the next time."

  • Free safety Mike Minter suggested the Panthers might have come into Sunday's game a little overconfident, saying the amount of media coverage given to the team might have affected the overall play.

    "The way we looked out there today, some of that has to be true," Minter said. "Again, I think we have to get back to what we do — that's play football. We need to forget about what they're about us."

  • Fox gambled in the second quarter when he decided to decline a 10-yard penalty on the Falcons, thus allowing kicker Michael Koenen attempt a 50-yard field goal. Had Fox accepted the penalty, the Falcons would have had a third-and-15, but would have been out of field goal range.

    Fox's gamble worked out as Julius Peppers got a hand on the field goal. Still, most observers believe that decision showed a lack of faith in his defense.

  • The Falcons avenged last season's series sweep by the Panthers and have now won 13 of 17 from Carolina.

    "Patrick Kerney and Keith Brooking stood up and talked to the team about how we owned this series," Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler said. "It was just one year where we goofed it up."

  • WLB Chris Draft started in place of Na'il Diggs and, like the rest of the Carolina defense, struggled stopping the run.

  • RB DeShaun Foster didn't run poorly on Sunday, despite finishing with 54 yards. The problem was there simply weren't enough holes largely because the Falcons focused on stopping the run. Foster's numbers should get better when Steve Smith returns to the starting lineup.

  • K John Kasay continued to have the hot leg, converting field goals of 54 and 46 yards after making 10 of 10 field goals during the preseason. Although his 54-yarder barely made it, Kasay is really kicking the ball well right now in terms of his accuracy.

  • RG Evan Mathis may have lost his starting job to Geoff Hangartner. The Panthers weren't real pleased with Mathis' play in the second half of Sunday's game and he was replaced by Hangartner with the Panthers down 20-6.


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