CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers are so thin at linebacker that coach Ron Rivera, a former linebacker with the Chicago Bears, joked that he might have to dig out his cleats and suit up Sunday against Tennessee.
James Anderson, the team's starting strongside linebacker and leading tackler, rolled his ankle in practice Thursday and was taken to the locker room, leaving the team with four healthy linebackers. Earlier in the week, Thomas Williams became the third linebacker to go on injured reserve after injuring his neck in a loss to Minnesota, while backup Jason Phillips has missed both practices this week with a calf injury.
Rivera said he thinks Anderson "will be fine" for Sunday, but admits things are pretty rough heading into the game against Chris Johnson and the Titans.
"Bringing (Anderson) in to the locker is more precautionary than anything else from what I understand," Rivera said.
If Anderson and Phillips can't play, the Panthers could use defensive end Antwan Applewhite at linebacker in a pinch and could take Phillip Dillard from the practice squad. Dillard signed with the team Tuesday.
"If I wasn't so old I would even consider it myself," joked Rivera, who played nine seasons with the Bears and was a member of the 1985 Super Bowl champions.
Applewhite played some linebacker in San Diego's 3-4 defense last season and said he's been getting some reps in practice at middle linebacker because of the glut of injuries. Along with Williams, the Panthers placed Jon Beason and Thomas Davis on injured reserve the first two weeks of the season.
"He has that versatility, which is why he has been so valuable for us," Rivera said of Applewhite.
Applewhite is confident he'll be ready if called upon.
"It's not too big of a jump for me," he said. "I have played multiple spots during my career. If need be, I'm ready to go."
Also, running back Mike Goodson, who has been inactive for the last month, pulled up with a hamstring injury Thursday and said he will need an MRI. Goodson said he tried to switch gears on a run to the outside during practice when he felt his leg tighten up.