Carolina rusher to have surgery on clavicle

On the field and off, things just continue to deteriorate for the Carolina Panthers.

Losers of four straight games, including Sunday's home defeat to the San Diego Chargers, the Panthers found out Monday that they have lost tailback DeShaun Foster for the balance of the season. Doctors determined that, because of a lack of progress in healing, Foster will require surgery to repair a broken clavicle.

Foster suffered the injury in an Oct. 10 game against Denver. The original prognosis was that the third-year veteran would miss about six weeks but not need surgery. A follow-up examination revealed, however, that the clavicle was not healing at the rate doctors preferred, and Foster will have surgery in the near future.

The Panthers, who have fallen to 1-5, will place Foster on inured reserve and likely will sign a veteran free-agent running back this week.

"We knew we were going to lose him for a significant amount of time," coach John Fox said. "If we could have held [open] the roster spot, we would have. But we may have to use that spot somewhere else along the line anyway."

The loss of Foster for the final 10 games further thins a Carolina backfield that rated as one of the team's strengths at the outset of the season. It is also indicative of how this season has gone for the defending NFC champions. Starter Stephen Davis, who injured his knee in the opener, has been slow to come back and has appeared in just two contests, logging only 24 carries.

In addition to the injuries to Davis and Foster, No. 3 tailback Rod Smart has not played since suffering a bone bruise in an Oct. 3 game. Carolina was forced to move fullback Brad Hoover to the tailback spot. Hoover rushed for 99 yards Sunday but is hardly a big-play threat.

Foster, a second-round pick in the 2002 draft, has seen his career plagued by injuries. He missed his entire rookie season because of a knee injury suffered in camp. In 2003, he proved an excellent complement to Davis, rushing for 429 yards and giving the Panthers a quicker option with outside speed.

The former UCLA star started four games this season and rushed for 255 yards and two touchdowns on 59 attempts.

Panthers coaches have auditioned several free-agent tailbacks in recent weeks -- players such as Stacey Mack, Doug Chapman and Skip Hicks -- and a replacement probably will come from that group.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.