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Injuries can really hurt on short week

Posted Sep 18, 2012


CHARLOTTE – Several key players did not participate in practice Tuesday, and with a Thursday game quickly approaching, that's a much bigger concern for Panthers head coach Ron Rivera than in most weeks.

When asked which of the non-participants – right tackle Byron Bell, running back Jonathan Stewart, guard Mike Pollak, linebacker Thomas Davis and safety Colin Jones – most concerned him, Rivera said "all of them."

"On a short week, it's tough," said Rivera, whose Panthers host the New York Giants on Thursday night. "Typically (for a Sunday game), you have a pretty good feel once you get to Thursday, but this week we won't have that feel until Thursday morning (the day of the game)."

Rivera felt "very comfortable" about the status of the four players who were limited in their participation Tuesday: linebacker Jon Beason, wide receivers Steve Smith and Kealoha Pilares and center Ryan Kalil.

With heavy rain falling throughout Tuesday, the Panthers limited their exposure to further injury by busing to the Charlotte Convention Center and practicing in the 40,000 square-foot Crown Ballroom.

Rivera didn't think moving practice into a carpeted room had a negative impact on preparation for the Giants.

"This was one of those practices that was more about learning the mental aspects of the game and the game plan, so we felt like going inside wasn't detrimental," Rivera said. "In fact, we got a pretty good rhythm out there, and I think it will help the guys a lot. We were able to slow some things down and not worry about the elements."

The Panthers practiced once in the convention center last year, but it was a new experience for fullback Mike Tolbert, who signed with the team in the offseason.

"That was a first," said Tolbert, who is known for his post-touchdown dance moves but resisted the temptation in the ballroom. "It was different running around with tennis shoes on instead of cleats. But we're professionals. We'll adjust to whatever it takes."

The Panthers already have endured an even tighter turnaround between games this year, but the circumstances and certainly the stakes were different. They played road games at the New York Jets on Sunday night and at the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thursday night to end the preseason, but very few starters played in the second game.

This time around, just four days after defeating the New Orleans Saints, it's all hands on deck – or at least the Panthers hope it is.

"Right after the Jets game, we already had a basic Pittsburgh Steelers game plan and were ready to focus on (the regular season opener at) Tampa Bay," Rivera said. "This is different, because we had to focus as much as we could on the Saints, and then after the Saints game we stayed and worked into the night. That's probably the hardest thing for the coaches.

"The toughest thing for the players, really, is the recovery time. We're going to have to make some game-time decisions."