CHARLOTTE – The Panthers moved wide receiver David Gettis to the 53-man roster Tuesday for the first time since his rookie season, but it came at the expense of another wide receiver.
Kealoha Pilares was placed on injured reserve with a right shoulder injury suffered on a third-quarter kickoff return in last Sunday's victory over the Washington Redskins.
"It's unfortunate, but the timing actually works out," Panthers interim general manager Brandon Beane said. "It's disappointing for Kealoha to have to be put down with the shoulder injury, but that's the nature of football, and it's the next man up. It gives David an opportunity to show us where he is and to see what he can do to help us."
Gettis had been on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list all season but began practicing three weeks ago. The Panthers had until Tuesday to decide whether to add him to the 53-man roster or shut him down for the second consecutive year.
Gettis missed the entire 2011 season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during training camp, and his comeback this season was slowed by a hamstring injury to the same leg that he sustained during organized team activities in June.
As a rookie in 2010, the 6-3, 220-pound speedster out of Baylor caught 37 passes for 508 yards and a team-best three touchdowns. The receiving yards ranked fourth among all NFL rookies and the reception total ranked fifth among rookies. Gettis also returned nine kickoffs for 159 yards.
Pilares posted two catches for 42 yards this season, including a 36-yard touchdown that gave the Panthers a late lead in their Week 4 loss at the Atlanta Falcons. He was the team's primary kickoff returner as a rookie last year – ranking fifth in the NFC with a 25.7-yard average - and held the same role the last five games, returning nine kicks for a 24.0-yard average.
The Panthers have several wide receivers on the roster with kickoff return experience, including rookie Joe Adams, Armanti Edwards and Gettis.
Adams began the season as the Panthers' primary kickoff and punt returner, averaging 23.1 yards on nine returns in the first three games. He has been inactive for the last five games since losing a fumble on a kickoff and a muffed punt in Week 3 against the New York Giants. But Panthers head coach Ron Rivera recently said Adams is making positive progress in practice.
"He's a home run hitter," Rivera said. "You want to get those kinds of guys out there."
Edwards returned one kickoff for 17 yards against the Giants. He made a splash on offense this past week after Pilares exited with the injury, hauling in an 82-yard reception to set up a touchdown in the Panthers' 21-13 triumph.
The Panthers also made a practice-squad move Tuesday, signing center Thomas Austin to the unit and terminating rookie linebacker Jerry Franklin.
Austin, a Clemson product, had previously spent two games on the Panthers' 53-man roster but was inactive for both before being waived Nov. 2. Franklin spent three weeks on the practice squad.