CHARLOTTE – Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (thigh) is "very questionable" for Sunday's game against the New York Giants after not practicing all three days this week.
"It's not looking good," head coach Ron Rivera said.
Rivera said Colin Cole would start alongside rookie Star Lotulelei in Edwards' place, but rookie Kawann Short will see plenty of action.
"I'd rather start a veteran guy with a rookie," Rivera said. "That doesn't mean we won't have (Kawann) in there right away though."
Cornerback Josh Thomas (concussion) will not play for precautionary reasons following a meeting with an independent evaluator. He practiced on a limited basis Thursday and Friday, and Rivera was hopeful that Thomas would be cleared in the final step of the concussion protocol process.
Thomas' absence means the secondary will be down another player after being ravished by injuries last week at Buffalo. Safety Quintin Mikell (ankle) and cornerback D.J. Moore (knee) are also out with injuries suffered against the Bills.
Cornerback James Dockery, who has missed the first two games with a thumb injury sustained during the preseason, could provide some depth, but his status is questionable and Rivera indicated he will be a game day decision.
As a result, the Panthers revamped secondary will feature Robert Lester at strong safety and Mike Mitchell at free safety, both of whom will be making their first starts of the season, with Colin Jones as the lone backup. At cornerback, Josh Norman, who is probable with a thigh injury, or Drayton Florence, who was signed on Thursday but was with the Panthers in the preseason, will start in place of Thomas.
Linebacker Jon Beason (knee), fullback Mike Tolbert (knee), linebacker Thomas Davis (tibia) and tight end Ben Hartsock (foot) are probable.
Despite having 11 players on the injury report and adding two defensive backs to the roster this week, Rivera thinks the Panthers will play well on Sunday.
"Yes. We've practiced well," Rivera said. "I'm optimistic. I think this football team is better than the record shows right now."