NFC South: Chris Scott

Most significant move: This has to be the release of guard Chris Scott. He started eight games last season and started the last two preseason games at right guard with rookie Trai Turner nursing a groin injury. This sends a message that Turner is ready to start the opener at Tampa Bay. Conditioning has been an issue for Scott, but coach Ron Rivera told me on Wednesday that Scott had worked himself into a good position when I asked if he could win a starting job. The release shows how much the Panthers like guard Andrew Norwell and the confidence they have in Fernando Velasco to play center and guard.

Not King for this day: Wide receiver Tavarres King and Marvin McNutt were mentioned by general manager Dave Gettleman as young players they'd like to get a good look at when they released Steve Smith. McNutt didn't make the first cut and now King, who at one point appeared to be fourth or fifth on the depth chart, is gone.

No pick for Barner: The Philadelphia Eagles waived injured running back Kenjon Barner, meaning Carolina won't get the conditional seventh-round pick they negotiated in the trade. Barner had to make the team's 46-man active list for at least the first four games for the Panthers to get the pick.

Alexander on reserve/suspended: DE Frank Alexander, suspended for the first four games for violating the league's substance abuse policy, was placed on the reserve/suspended list. He is expected to return to the 53-man roster (depth charts will be updated shortly) after the Week 4 game at Baltimore.

What's next: Look for Gettleman to keep a close eye on the waiver wire for a wide receiver/return specialist. As much as Rivera says he likes undrafted rookie wideout Philly Brown returning punts, the drops have to make him nervous. There are quite a few interesting players available, including Jets 2012 second-round pick Stephen Hill.

Panthers moves: Cut -- LB Denicos Allen, CB Carrington Byndom, G Derek Dennis, CB James Dockery, LB Adarius Glanton, WR Tavarres King, S Robert Lester, WR Marcus Lucas, OT Andrew McDonald, S Tom Nelson, DT Drake Nevis, RB Darrin Reaves, DT Micanor Regis, LB D.J. Smith, CB Josh Thomas, DT Casey Walker, FB Michael Zordich, OG Chris Scott. Waived/injured -- T Kevin Hughes. Waived/injured settlement -- TE Mike McNeil, S Anderson Russell. Reserve/suspended -- DE Frank Alexander.
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The reported release of right guard Chris Scott means the Carolina Panthers are confident the groin injury that sidelined rookie Trai Turner in the past two preseason games won't be an issue for the Sept. 7 opener at Tampa Bay.

Scott appeared to have worked himself into position to challenge Turner for the start, but according to Pro Football Talk, he was released on Saturday as the Panthers trimmed their roster to 53.

When asked on Wednesday about the possibility of Scott starting versus the Buccaneers, coach Ron Rivera said, "Chris worked himself into a good position, and we'll see how it goes."

Scott started eight games last season before a knee injury became an issue.

A fifth-round pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010, the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Scott had issues with conditioning that sidelined him for much of offseason workouts. He failed conditioning tests at Buffalo in 2013, making him available for the Panthers to sign.

The release of Scott also shows Carolina's confidence in Fernando Velasco's ability to play center and guard. Velasco signed with the Panthers in July after suffering a season-ending Achilles injury in Week 14 last season.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There's no question Cam Newton will start in the Carolina Panthers' Sept. 7 opener at Tampa Bay, but uncertainty lingers over who will protect him.

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Most of Carolina's 22 starters are set, but Thursday night's exhibition finale will have a big impact on who protects the ailing quarterback (fractured ribs) on the right side of the line.

Rookie right guard Trai Turner (groin) is out for the second straight game, and Chris Scott has played well enough to be considered the Week 1 starter.

Scott started eight games last season, all but one at right guard, before a knee injury forced him to miss time. His biggest issue since returning for offseason workouts has been conditioning. He's got that under control and has impressed the coaches.

"Chris has worked himself into position and we'll see how it goes," coach Ron Rivera said.

Nate Chandler began training camp in a heated battle with Byron Bell for the left tackle job. When Bell secured that spot after the Aug. 17 preseason win over Kansas City, Chandler settled in at right tackle.

However, Chandler's lingering knee injury and inconsistency as a pass blocker have opened the door for veteran Garry Williams. Chandler will start against Pittsburgh, but as Rivera reminded this is a big game for him to prove he's earned the job.

Other positions up for grab are strong side linebacker and nickel back. Veteran Chase Blackburn is the returning starter on the strong side, and he missed last week's game with a back injury. He's been pushed by A.J. Klein.

Charles Godfrey entered training camp as the leading candidate to be the nickel back, but rookie Bene' Benwikere has played well enough that both will play there at times until one earns it outright.

"There are three to six positions up for grabs," said Rivera, without being specific.

Rivera said the starters will play through the first quarter against Pittsburgh. Defensive end Charles Johnson (hamstring) will not make the trip, but end Greg Hardy (shoulder) will suit up and be evaluated before game time.

Both are expected to be ready for the opener.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera reached deep into his limited French dialect to name Byron Bell as his starting left tackle.

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"He's done such a good job, I'm going to say it's a fait accompli," Rivera said after Tuesday's rain-interrupted practice. "He and I will sit down and have a conversation about it. I'm going to talk to the coaches to make sure we're all set, we're all confident, we're all comfortable.

"[But] he's done a really nice job."

If you're not as versed in French as Rivera, "fait accompli" means an it's an accomplished fact.

That Bell won the job clears up one of the biggest questions entering training camp as the Panthers looked to replace the retired Jordan Gross. Bell, who started at right tackle the past three seasons after being signed in 2011 as an undrafted rookie out of New Mexico, won the job over Nate Chandler.

"He's done some stuff on the left side that he didn't do on the right side that have been impressive," Rivera said of Bell, reminding he is a natural left-hander. "His punch is a little better, his first step is a lot better. He's working off his left side.

"Having seen that, I have confidence he can do the job for us."

Chandler will start at right tackle unless the knee injury that kept him out of Tuesday's practice keeps flaring up as it occasionally has the past couple of weeks.

"Nate has done a great job, too," Rivera said. "Look at what our lines have done in the [preseason] games. We give up a sack or two here, but the thing that has been more than anything else is we've missed some protections rather than guys have been flat-out beaten.

"That's a positive."

The Panthers also have developed decent depth with veteran Garry Williams able to back up at both tackle and guard spots. Chris Scott, whose conditioning was an issue during offseason workouts, also has done well.

Scott replaced rookie Trai Turner (groin) with the first team at right guard on Tuesday. Rivera said it was too early to tell if Turner would be ready for Friday night's preseason game at New England.

"We've got a good group of guys right now," Rivera said. "Knock on wood, we've got some decent depth."
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart has missed so many offseason and preseason practices with injuries during his six-year NFL career that you'd swear he was faking it to avoid the hot, humid days that are typical in these parts.

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He's not.

Stewart's injuries, from big toe surgery that kept him out of OTAs in 2008 to ankle surgery that sidelined him throughout the entire 2013 offseason, have been legitimate.

But he's healthy now, as healthy as he's been since the 2011 season.

If the former Oregon star can return to the form he was in 2009 when he rushed for 1,133 yards sharing the backfield with DeAngelo Williams as they became known as "Double Trouble," the Panthers can't help but be better for it in their quest to be a ball-control team.

"Very excited about having Jonathan on the field," coach Ron Rivera said after Wednesday's workout. "He's healthy again. He's moving the way we need him to move. I like what we're getting out of him.

"Even Jonathan is saying this is the first time he's been healthy [in a while]. So that's a good thing."

The rotation of a healthy Stewart and Williams, along with fullback/halfback Mike Tolbert, could give the Panthers one of the best trio of running backs in the league.

Throw in quarterback Cam Newton, who should be stronger and faster than ever once his left ankle completely heals from surgery, and Carolina has four legitimate threats in the running game.

That's why Rivera said Stewart doesn't need to be a 1,000-yard rusher to be effective. He just needs Stewart to be more effective than he was a year ago when he spent the first seven games on the physically unable to perform list and then missed the last three games after suffering a knee injury at New Orleans.

"We need to be able to rush for 100 yards a game like we did last year," Rivera said. "That's one of the things that really helped us out [last season]. We ran the ball well, we controlled the clock, we controlled the tempo of the game."

A healthy Stewart would help all of that.

A few more observations from Wednesday:
  • Guard Chris Scott, who spent last Wednesday working with trainers on conditioning and left practice the previous Wednesday because he was overheated, wasn't on the field. Rivera would not be specific for why Scott was out other than to say it was health related.
  • Third-round draft pick Trai Turner, particularly with Scott out, continues to get the bulk of the work at right guard.
  • Fourth-year player Mario Addison, not second-round draft pick Kony Ealy, worked a lot with the first team at defensive end with Greg Hardy out with a minor leg injury. Hardy, by the way, was expected back Thursday and for next week's minicamp.
  • Neither Rivera nor quarterback Cam Newton could be lured into what Newton called a "pissing match" with former wide receiver Brandon LaFell, now with New England. LaFell said last week that the Patriots' offseason workouts were tougher than what he was used to at Carolina. Rivera wished LaFell well, but insisted his practices were plenty tough enough. Newton said he respects LaFell but he "begged to differ."
No member of the Carolina Panthers 'offensive line took more heat last season than right tackle Byron Bell. Now, it appears, he'll get a chance to prove if he can protect quarterback Cam Newton's blind side.

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The Panthers on Monday tendered the restricted free agent, as well as exclusive rights player Chris Scott.

This occurred shortly after Carolina re-signed offensive lineman Garry Williams to a one-year deal and fullback/tight end Richie Brockel to a two-year deal.

Coach Ron Rivera mentioned Bell as a possible candidate to replace Jordan Gross at left tackle when the 11-year veteran retired a few weeks ago.

Bell, 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds, started 14 games at right tackle this past season and has started 41 of 47 career games at Carolina. He first came under fire last season after Buffalo's Mario Williams had 4.5 sacks from his side in the second game.

The heat continued most of the season. Although Bell at times played well, Pro Football Focus gave him a season rating of minus-2.8. To put that in perspective, Gross had a rating of 33.5.

That's not the kind of rating a franchise quarterback wants to hear.

Nevertheless, Rivera and Gross said Bell played much better than people gave him credit for, and both endorsed him as a possibility at left tackle.

Filling the left tackle position from within would be a huge benefit for Carolina, which had only about $7 million left under the salary cap before the day began. With a strong draft class at tackle, the Panthers also might look to fill one of the two starting spots with a first- or second-round pick.

And don't forget, Williams has started 13 games at right tackle.

Scott (6-4 and 320 pounds) gives the Panthers more depth at guard. He started the first eight games this past season -- one at left and seven at right -- before suffering a knee injury against Atlanta in October.

Monday's moves won't draw big headlines, but they could mean the Panthers won't be heavily involved in free agency for offensive linemen -- at least not a high-priced tackle.

That's big considering the needs for upgrades at cornerback and wide receiver.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For the second time this season, the Carolina Panthers are turning to a veteran they cut during training camp to help an injury situation.

The Panthers flew guard/center Geoff Hangartner into Charlotte on Tuesday to take a physical, and then he was signed Tuesday afternoon.

Hangartner is being brought in to help at right guard. Starter Chris Scott is day-to-day with a sprained knee suffered in the second quarter of Sunday's 34-10 victory over Atlanta.

Backup Jeff Byers was placed on injured reserve after he had season-ending Lisfranc surgery on his left foot on Monday that he also injured in the second quarter.

That left the Panthers with former defensive lineman-turned-backup tackle Nate Chandler playing 41 snaps at guard.

Coach Ron Rivera said on Monday that Chandler will begin the week working with the first team, but acknowledged the team was thin at that spot.

Hangartner appeared to be the starter until he was cut in August so the Panthers could focus on younger players. He started 12 games last season and every game in 2011.

Earlier this season, the Panthers brought back veteran cornerback Drayton Florence after suffering multiple injuries at the position during a Week 2 loss at Buffalo. Florence returned an interception for a touchdown on Sunday.

Double Coverage: Panthers at Bills

September, 12, 2013
9/12/13
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Manuel-NewtonGetty ImagesRookie QB EJ Manuel guides rebuilding Buffalo; Cam Newton's under pressure to win now in Carolina.

Following tough home losses Sunday, the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers look to get back on track in Week 2.

This game offers an intriguing quarterback battle between Bills rookie EJ Manuel, selected 16th overall this year, and the Panthers' Cam Newton, the top overall pick in 2011.

We'll hit on that matchup and more in our weekly "Double Coverage" conversation, so let's get it started:

Mike Rodak: David, it seemed like the Bills and the Panthers opened their seasons in similar ways. Both teams faced superior opponents: The Patriots and Seahawks are near the top of the AFC and NFC, respectively, while the Bills and Panthers are bottom-dwellers in their conferences. Yet, both teams kept it close. The Bills lost by two points on a late field goal, while the Panthers kept it within five points. There is a cautious sense of optimism around the Bills locker room right now. Is that also true down in Charlotte?

David Newton: Definitely optimism, which wasn't necessarily the case a year ago. The team feels it has more of an identity, an awareness of where it can go from here. Much of that identity is based around the defense, which established itself as one of the more solid units in the league by holding the potent Seattle offense to 12 points. Wide receiver Steve Smith, whether he was trying to inspire the rest of the team or because he actually believes it, set the tone by predicting that the Panthers will face Seattle again deep in January. I still don't see Carolina as a playoff team based on what its offense showed, but there is potential.

So both teams played top opponents close and lost. Now what? Is this a must-win for both if they have any hopes of being playoff contenders?

Rodak: I think it’s more of a must-win for Carolina. You look at the NFC South, and it’s stacked. If the Panthers want a shot at a wild-card spot, they might need to finish ahead of either Atlanta or New Orleans, and that’s a tall task. The Bills are in a weaker division, where an 0-2 start could have less of an impact. But still, not a good sign for Buffalo if it drops its first two, both at home.

The Bills spent a first-round pick this season on a quarterback in Manuel. The Panthers selected a quarterback, Newton, first overall in 2011. He’s now entering his third season. How does the team (and fans) feel about Newton’s development?

Newton: Agreed, it's much more of a must-win game for Carolina. An 0-2 start after getting out of the gate 1-6 a year ago will have the vultures swarming for coach Ron Rivera. It will have the critics pounding on Newton. As new general manager Dave Gettleman said before the season, it's time for Newton to win. Buffalo can write this off as a rebuilding season with a rookie quarterback; Carolina can't do that with Newton. I said before the season the Panthers had to start no worse than 2-1 to have a chance to be successful. The Seattle loss, as close as they came to pulling it out, wasn't unexpected. Sunday's is one of those winnable road games they can't afford to lose. There aren't many out there.

So what do you see this game coming down to?

Rodak: I think the Bills will need a better game out of C.J. Spiller. If he can get it going -- the Patriots shut him down Sunday, holding him to less than 3 yards per carry and per catch -- it opens up the Bills offense and gives Manuel a chance to take more shots downfield. The Panthers held the Seahawks to just 70 yards rushing and have one of the better defensive lines in the NFL, so it won’t be easy. If Spiller has another quiet day, not only will it upset his fantasy owners, but it will also be tough for the Bills to win.

What about for the Panthers?

Newton: It's going to come down to the Carolina offensive line and whether it can establish the run as well as New England did in Week 1 against the Bills. Right guard Garry Williams is gone for the year with an ACL/MCL tear. His replacement, Chris Scott, played well against Seattle. But Scott started on the left side, where Amini Silatolu was out with a hamstring injury. Silatolu is expected back this week, so if he holds up, the Panthers should be OK. But Carolina has to run effectively to make the offense under new coordinator Mike Shula click.

Panthers' mood surprisingly upbeat

September, 9, 2013
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The mood in the Carolina Panthers' locker room on Monday was unusually upbeat for a team that 24 hours earlier lost its opener and its starting right guard for the season.

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There was a sense of confidence, a sense the team still can have a successful season. That wasn't fully there a year ago.

"Yes, there is disappointment in themselves,'' coach Ron Rivera said as he evaluated the 12-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. "I really felt in talking to a lot of guys they were disappointed in how certain things went on.

"The thing I told them is as we watch this tape, be honest. If you played 59 plays well and you played one play bad that one play should really eat at you. I think a lot of guys are going to respond the right way.''

Center Ryan Kalil said players understand more of what they have to do to be a winning team than they did this time a year ago during a 1-6 start.

"There's more of a feeling of what our identity is and what we can do and what we're capable of moving forward,'' he said. "The last couple of years [we were] still kind of unsure of where we're going, what we're doing.

"It doesn't feel like that this year. Obviously, it's not the ideal start to what we want to get done, but there were a lot of good things on film and a lot of things we saw that I'm not so sure we kind of knew what was going on early on last year.''

Losing right guard Garry Williams to a torn ACL/MCL in his left knee won't help. But the good news is Amini Silatolu, the starting left guard who missed the opener with a hamstring injury, is set to return to practice without restrictions on Wednesday.

And Chris Scott, who started at left guard before moving over to replace Williams, is more natural at right guard. He graded out perfectly in pass protection against Seattle from the right side.

So Carolina, with veteran Travelle Wharton in the mix, has a decent three-player rotation.

That Scott and Wharton helped the Panthers rush for 134 yards on 26 carries also was encouraging.

What disappointed Rivera was the number of mistakes and that they didn't come from one person that easily could be replaced.

"When you have 45 players and there is 130 plays, that means there is 45 bad plays,'' Rivera said. "Those are things we have to correct. The disappointment is not necessarily that we lost, but how we lost, that we didn't play smart football.

"That's what bothers me more than anything else, and I just expressed that to the players.''

They seemed to get it, because the mood was surprisingly upbeat.

Great Scott, journeyman could start

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Apparently, Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman was dropping a hint earlier this week when he said the media was overlooking Chris Scott in the battle at left guard.

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Scott worked with the first-team offense during Thursday's warm-ups, a good indication of what the staff thinks of him. He was ahead of veteran Travelle Wharton as Amini Silatolu -- the projected starter who is nursing a hamstring injury --watched.

If Silatolu is a no-go -- and coach Ron Rivera called him a long shot -- for Sunday's opener against the Seattle Seahawks, Scott may get his first NFL start.

Quite an accomplishment for a player who isn't listed in the team media guide.

"He's a guy who has really come in -- I don't want to say skyrocketed up the depth chart,'' left tackle Jordan Gross said. "But [he] kind of came in as a body after (Geoff) Hangartner got let go, and now he is getting reps with the ones.

"If you haven't noticed, maybe he has been overlooked.''

Scott is a physical 6-foot-4, 320-pound player with his sixth team since the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him in the fifth round of the 2010 draft out of Tennessee. The Panthers signed him in August after he was waived by Buffalo.

"Chris Scott is solid,'' Rivera said. "He's done a lot of good things for us, and he's a little bit of a find for us.''

Even if Scott doesn't start, Rivera said he and Wharton will rotate against Seattle's tough defensive front.

Apparently, that's what Gettleman was trying to say when he said Scott was being overlooked as questions loomed about the injury-plagued offensive front.

“I don’t think there’s any issue,” Gettleman said of the line.

In other injury updates:
  • Starting strong safety Mike Mitchell did not practice on Thursday as he recovers from a calf injury. Rivera called it a setback, but said he likes what he's gotten out of veteran Quintin Mikell who was signed on Monday.
  • Weakside linebacker Jon Beason, who missed most of last season after undergoing microfracture knee surgery, returned to practice on Thursday after getting Wednesday off. Rivera expects Beason to play 25 to 35 snaps against Seattle.
  • Starting defensive tackle Dwan Edwards did not practice on Thursday because of a tight hamstring. Rivera said Edwards will be re-evaluated on Friday, but he didn't seem overly concerned.

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