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Edwards still out; Lester ready to return


CHARLOTTE – Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards is the only Panther expected to miss Thursday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers due to injury.

Edwards (hamstring) is questionable, but head coach Ron Rivera said he will miss his fifth consecutive game.

"It's been real frustrating," Edwards said. "I've been doing everything I can to try to get back. I had a little bit of a setback last week. I thought I would be ready to go last week if I hadn't had the setback."

Rookie strong safety Robert Lester (hamstring) missed the previous two games but is probable for Week 8 and expected to play.

Rivera said Quintin Mikell will start at strong safety, but Lester will be involved.

"You have a good young football player there and you don't want to stymie his growth," Rivera said. "We have to continue to find ways to rotate he and Quintin.

"The nice thing about Quintin is he's versatile. So if (free safety) Mike Mitchell needs a spell we've got a guy that can rotate. We feel really good about that and having Robert back ready to roll."

Cornerback Josh Thomas (illness) is probable but Rivera hasn't yet determined who will start opposite cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

"That we are still working on," Rivera said. "Melvin White has done a really nice job. (Josh Thomas) is struggling a little bit right now. Josh Norman is working his way back. James Dockery is a guy that did some good things for us last year in the nickel package. We've got Drayton Florence who is a veteran guy and has done some nice things as well."

Lastly, Rivera reiterated that running back Jonathan Stewart, who returned to practice Tuesday, will not yet be activated from the physically unable to perform list, and will not play against the Buccaneers. However, the plan is for him to make his 2013 debut next week versus Atlanta.

"I think it's a very fair goal for him," Rivera said.

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