- David Newton, ESPN Staff Writer
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But Mike Mitchell may have lost his starting job at strong safety when he injured his calf late in the preseason.
Coach Ron Rivera said Thomas will start on the left side on Sunday at Buffalo. He was non-committal on whether Mitchell or Quintin Mikell would start at safety.
Mikell played 75 percent of the snaps in Sunday's 12-7 loss to Seattle with Mitchell inactive.
"They're both going to play,'' Rivera said on Friday. "We've got to continue to evaluate it. Come Sunday we'll have a feeling for what direction we'll head and how we'll rotate those guys.''
As for Thomas, who gave up the deciding 43-yard fourth-quarter touchdown, he did enough other things well to remain the starter over Josh Norman.
"It was one play,'' Rivera said. "He could have helped himself out a little bit. We could have helped him out a little bit more, too, as well. It's one play. Hopefully, it doesn't become two.
"We have confidence in him. We're showing we have confidence in him. But at the same time we've got to also be smart about it, pay attention to what's happening. We have a couple of other young guys that could help us as well.''
"We can't expect Amini to come in and play 60 plays,'' Rivera said.
Chasing playing time: For all the talk about how valuable linebacker Chase Blackburn would be before the season, the nine-year veteran didn't play a defensive snap in the opener.
That should change against Buffalo, and not because the coaching staff is worried about wearing out starter Jon Beason, who missed most of last year with a knee injury.
“It wouldn’t be because [Beason] is struggling, because he’s got to work through it and we know that,” Rivera said. “It would be more so that Chase has got to start getting snaps. We’ve talked about that. He’s a veteran guy who understands the game and you don’t want him to ever get rusty.”
Blackburn signed with Carolina during the offseason after nine years with the New York Giants. He had a career-best 97 tackles and three sacks a year ago in 15 starts.
Beason snap count: Rivera said Beason looked good on Friday after getting Thursday off.
"I'll take that guy that played that first three quarters last week,'' Rivera said. "He's getting in football shape. Once that happens, I'm excited for him. There's going to be a point where we hope to get 50 out of him. Right now we'll take what we can get.''
Known inactives: Running back Kenjon Barner (foot) and cornerback James Dockery (thumb) will not play against Buffalo. But Rivera is optimistic Barner may be ready for the New York Giants next weekend.