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Otah becomes 10th Panther on injured reserve

Posted Dec 15, 2009

Right tackle Jeff Otah also missed four games with an ankle injury last year. (PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

CHARLOTTE -- A nagging shoulder problem wasn't enough to torpedo Jeff Otah's season, but a left knee injury was.

The second-year right tackle became the 10th player on the Panthers' injured-reserve list Tuesday, succumbing to an injury suffered during the Panthers' 20-10 loss at New England on Sunday. Otah left the game in the final moments when the shoulder problem flared up, but by Monday the knee problem was the primary concern.

Otah's absence is another body blow to an offensive line that lost its other bookend tackle Nov. 15 when Pro Bowler Jordan Gross fractured his leg during the second quarter of a 28-19 win over Atlanta. The Panthers were able to tap into experience to fill that void, shifting left guard Travelle Wharton over to the slot he started for all 16 games in the 2005 and 2007 seasons.

Second-year veteran Mackenzy Bernadeau shifted over to Wharton's vacated slot, and the Panthers' running game continued to post a healthy average, picking up 135.0 yards a week without Gross after averaging 156.6 with him in the season's first nine games.

But unlike left tackle, the Panthers don't have the same reservoir of reserve experience they can tap on the right side. No one else on the 53-man roster has started at right tackle for the Panthers. First-year player Geoff Schwartz, a member of the Panthers' practice squad last year, stepped in for Otah in the final minutes at New England.

Otah brings the Panthers' complement of injured-reserve players to 10 and is the third offensive lineman on the list, joining Gross and rookie C.J. Davis. Otah is also the sixth man on injured reserve to be on the Panthers' first team at the time he succumbed, along with Gross, linebackers Thomas Davis and Landon Johnson and defensive tackles Maake Kemoeatu and Louis Leonard.

When factoring in the games lost by players whose injuries didn't necessitate placement on injured reserve, Carolina's starters have lost a combined 56 man-games to injury and are guaranteed to lose at least 74, given the afore-mentioned starting sextet's absence from the next three games.

During the Panthers' 12-4 season last year, they had only 16 man-games lost by starters to injuries. Just five players were placed on injured reserve, and only one was a starter: guard Keydrick Vincent, who sat out the final two regular-season games.

To replace Otah on the roster, Carolina signed fellow University of Pittsburgh product Rob Pettiti, who has experience with three NFL clubs -- including a full season starting at right tackle for Dallas in 2005 -- but saw his most recent action in the United Football League in October and November.

Petitti becomes the second member of the UFL's Florida Tuskers to sign with the Panthers. Linebacker Quinton Culberson was the first; he joined the Panthers on the first week UFL players were eligible to sign with NFL clubs. Culberson has played the last two games on special teams.