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Injuries rock running backs again

Posted Sep 28, 2014

Three injuries prior to Ravens game and two during it leave Panthers to depend on pair of unproven ballcarriers.

BALTIMORE – Eight days ago, running back Darrin Reaves was on the Panthers' practice squad, an undrafted rookie happy to have an opportunity to pursue his NFL dream.

Eight days ago, running back Tauren Poole was looking for work. Three days ago, he found it in the form of a spot on the Panthers' practice squad.

By the midway point of the second quarter Sunday at the Baltimore Ravens, Reaves and Poole represented the Panthers' only options at running back.

"It's a part of the business," Reaves said. "It's something you have to endure sometimes. You've got to make sure the next guy is ready. That's the approach we've been taking."

The Panthers entered the game with fullback Mike Tolbert on the injured reserve/designated for return list and running backs Jonathan Stewart and Fozzy Whittaker inactive because of injuries.

In the first quarter, fullback Richie Brockel suffered an ankle injury that ended his day. In the second quarter, on a 7-yard run that moved the Panthers inside Baltimore's 25-yard line, running back DeAngelo Williams suffered the same fate.

Head coach Ron Rivera said the latest injuries hurt but added: "It doesn't matter who the running back is - we've still got to block. That's the big disappointment."

With Williams out and no true blocking back available after Brockel's injury, the Panthers turned to Reaves and Poole.

"He was running very hard, and it hurt us badly when he got hurt," left tackle Byron Bell said of Williams, who was returning from a two-game absence. "I felt very bad because he had worked so hard to get back, but Darrin Reaves got a lot of experience today, and that's the only way he's going to get better."

After Williams gained 34 yards on 11 carries as the Panthers committed to establishing the running game, Reaves rushed 12 times for 26 yards as the Panthers played catch-up. Poole fumbled on his one attempt.

"I knew my team needed me, so nerves had to go out of the window. I had to step up and be a man and do whatever had to be done," Reaves said. "I just need to get my feet wet, learn the speed of the game and the feel of the game.

"Even if I ran for 200 yards today, I'd still feel that I could improve."

Time will tell if Reaves is a prominent part of things when the Panthers host the Chicago Bears in Week 5. Head coach Ron Rivera didn't have any definitive updates on Williams and Brockel, who were in walking boots after the game, and it's also too early to tell if Stewart, Whittaker or both will be back next week.

"It is what you make it," quarterback Cam Newton said. "We now have some young guys who have an opportunity to make a name for themselves. Those guys will get better each week and we will be better."

Newton, while pledging his support for the next man up, is counting the days until the Panthers can get their leading men back.

"We've got a great football team, but we've got a lot of guys that are injured," he said. "The optimism of it all is that I can't wait until we get those guys back."