CHARLOTTE -- Rocked by injuries in recent weeks, the Panthers' linebacking corps witnessed another shift Tuesday, when the team signed ex-St. Louis Rams starter Quinton Culberson to the 53-man roster.
Culberson started 10 games for St. Louis in 2008 and one in 2007, but was waived by the club earlier this year after playing in just one game. He had been waived on Sept. 6 -- the day after the 53-man roster deadline -- but rejoined the sams Sept. 10 and played in their regular-season opener before once again being released.
To make room for Culberson, the Panthers placed linebacker Kelvin Smith on the waived/injured list with a knee injury. Smith was promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster on Nov. 10 after
Instead of sitting out after the Rams waived him on Sept. 16, Culberson soon found himself in the upstart United Football League, signing with the Florida Tuskers. He had a forced fumble in the Tuskers' final regular-season game and logged 16 tackles during a brief, six-game season.
This is the first week that NFL teams could sign UFL players to their rosters. One of Culberson's teammates with the Tuskers, kicker Matt Bryant, signed with the Atlanta Falcons; like Culberson, he has significant NFL experience, previously playing with Tampa Bay before being waived at the final cutdown this summer.
Culberson becomes the ninth player signed as a street free agent or promoted from the practice squad to the 53-man roster during this regular season, and the fourth in as many weeks. A year ago, the Panthers made just four such moves all season.
The turnover is necessitated by the injuries with which the Panthers have coped this year; eight players are on injured reserve, with three placed there on successive Tuesdays last month.
STAT CRUNCH: As December begins, a quick look at some numbers worth nothing:
... Kickoff specialist
... One area where the Panthers have struggled offensively this year is on third downs, where they now rank 30th in the league, averaging 4.35 yards per first-down play. Sunday against the Jets, they were limited to just over half that, averaging 2.43 yards per first down -- 2.46 yards per rush and 2.40 yards per pass play. Carolina ran on 13 first downs Sunday and passed on 10 ...
... Carolina's defense, however, ranks fifth in first-down defense, yielding an average of 4.80 yards on first downs. Sunday's effort was close to that average, as the Jets averaged 4.62 yards on their 26 first downs, including 3.65 yards on their 20 first-down carries ...