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Byers remains starter at right guard


CHARLOTTE – Jeff Byers will start his fourth consecutive game at right guard, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said Friday, and wide receiver Armanti Edwards' chances of getting to continue his recent emergence are starting to look better.

Edwards practiced Friday after missing Thursday's practice with a groin injury and is as probable for Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If Edwards can play, it will create an interesting decision for the coaching staff when it comes to deciding which wide receivers will be active.

There's also a decision to be made along the offensive line, where Byers is being pushed by veteran Jeremy Bridges, who re-signed with the Panthers on Wednesday. Bridges hasn't played since suffering a thumb injury during the preseason with the Arizona Cardinals, so he'll either back up Byers or be inactive.

"Right now with Jeremy, the biggest thing is his conditioning," Rivera said. "The first couple of periods at practice, he looks good. Then as you go on to period three, period four, he loses his legs. He's looked better every day, until the latter portions of practice."

Improvements made by several wide receivers have created a logjam there, where Steve Smith, Brandon LaFell and Louis Murphy are firmly entrenched. Edwards has catches in each of the last two games in addition to returning kickoffs last week; David Gettis played for the first time in nearly two years last week; and rookie Joe Adams is bidding to reprise his role as punt returner for the first time since Week 3.

"You'd like to be able to have six wide receivers active, but you can't, so we'll have to make a decision," Rivera said. "A lot of things hinge on Armanti's health.

"He strained his groin in practice Wednesday, so we gave him the day off (Thursday). He came in this morning saying he felt better and wanted to take some snaps. It was probably the best thing to do, so we can see how he is."

Rivera also likes the progress made by Adams, who has been working to regain the coaches' trust since turning the ball over twice against the New York Giants.

"I've been very pleased with him," Rivera said. "He was pretty dog-gone consistent."

Edwards is one of eight Panthers listed as probable. The only player sure to be inactive is defensive end Antwan Applewhite, who will miss his fourth consecutive game with a hamstring injury.

With Applewhite out and fellow defensive end Thomas Keiser now on injured reserve with an elbow injury, Rivera said rookie Nate Chandler would continue getting looks behind starters Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy and fellow rookie Frank Alexander.

"Nate's been fun to watch," Rivera said of the former practice squad player who started out as an offensive player at UCLA. "He's a young guy that could really grow as a player, especially at 305 pounds and running around and playing the way he does. He's also very versatile."

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