CHARLOTTE - Linebacker Jon Beason kept waiting and waiting for his Achilles tendinitis to go away, but it never did.
That's because, as it turns out, Beason didn't have tendinitis.
A second MRI recently revealed that Beason actually had a bone bruise, a discovery that led to surgery on Aug. 22 that could have him ready for the Panthers' regular season opener Sept. 11 at the Arizona Cardinals.
"We found the problem, and thus far it looks like this is the solution," Beason said Sunday. "I feel good. I want to be moving fast by the middle of next week, and hopefully I'll be ready for preparation for the Cardinals."
Beason said the problem began in May and gradually got worse, eventually becoming so significant that he basically couldn't do anything. The most common treatments for Achilles tendinitis are rest and a program of icing and stimulation, but the approach didn't work, prompting a second MRI.
After the discovery of the bone bruise, Beason had three screws inserted in the calcaneus (the heel bone) to both relieve the pressure and strengthen the bone.
The procedure has given Beason hope that he'll be able to maintain his starting streak - he's started all 64 regular season games in his four-year NFL career - but he knows that playing and playing well are two different things.
"The biggest thing I'm concerned about right now is conditioning," Beason said. "This is probably the longest I've probably sat down ever. I can't remember not running for two-plus months, ever. I'm usually pretty active, and I think that's a key to my game - being in great shape allows you to make big plays more consistently."
In addition, Beason will be stepping back into a leadership role at middle linebacker in a new system headed by first-year defensive coordinator Sean McDermott.
"When I get out there, it's not going to be magic where I can just plug right in and make no mistakes," Beason said. "I have been taking mental reps out here watching and sitting in all the meetings. Hopefully it sticks."
Beason said he's confident in the Panthers' other options at linebacker - the deepest position group on the defense - if he's not ready to start or if he gets off to a slow start.
The Panthers, however, certainly need the man who owns the four highest season tackle totals in franchise history, and he certainly wants to be back out there.
"I will take on the challenge," Beason said. "I feel excited about it and am anxious to get back on the field."