CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians called the Carolina Panthers linebackers the best group "that I've seen in a while." Quarterback Carson Palmer called them the best "linebacking corps in the league."
Jon Beason, who began the season as the starter at weakside linebacker, has officially been replaced by Blackburn. We knew that after the three-time Pro Bowl player took only one snap in a 38-0 victory over the New York Giants.
But until Wednesday, coach Ron Rivera had said only that the position was being evaluated and the best player would be on the field.
"Right now, Chase has got the lead," Rivera said as he prepared for Sunday's game at Arizona. "A big part of it is Chase is a little more comfortable at it right now. Jon is still trying to get back in football shape."
Beason started the first two games, but after struggling at the end of the opener against Seattle and throughout the second game at Buffalo it became apparent he hadn't fully regained the explosiveness after undergoing offseason microfracture knee surgery.
Blackburn, who didn't play a defensive snap in the first two games, stepped in against the Giants and more than held his own.
"It's the way it works in this league," said Blackburn, who left the Giants after last season to sign with Carolina. "You just have to make the most of the opportunity."
Now it's Beason's turn to make the most of the opportunities he gets and try and work himself back into the rotation.
"He's handled it well," Rivera said of Beason. "He's a professional. He knows his opportunity is going to come again, and he'll continue to do things he's asked. He'll get opportunities to get back on the field, and I expect him to take advantage of those opportunities."
Injury updates: Defensive end Greg Hardy was sent home Wednesday with a fever but is expected to return Thursday. ... Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards still is struggling with a hamstring injury that kept him out of the last game. He was held out of practice and has to be questionable at this point. ... Defensive tackle Kawann Short rolled an ankle in practice and was limited but expected to be all right.