CHARLOTTE – Center Ryan Kalil and cornerback Josh Norman are probable for the Panthers' season opener Sunday at the Jacksonville Jaguars, but defensive tackle Star Lotulelei has been ruled out.
Lotulelei (foot), tight end Richie Brockel (shoulder) and offensive tackle Nate Chandler (knee) won't play, but head coach Ron Rivera appears confident that all three could return to action soon.
As for Kalil, he participated fully in practice Friday after being limited Wednesday and Thursday by a sprained knee suffered in Carolina's second preseason game. Rivera said Kalil would play against the Jaguars but indicated that starting right tackle Mike Remmers could spell him at times. If Remmers were to slide over, rookie Daryl Williams would fill in for Remmers.
"Kalil practiced well today, took all his reps," Rivera said. "We're going to be smart. We have a plan, and we'll execute it accordingly."
Norman isn't expected to have any limitations despite not participating fully in practice until Friday. The delay, Rivera said, was because Norman – who suffered a head injury in the Panthers' final preseason game - didn't complete the NFL's concussion protocol until after practice Thursday.
"Josh has been normal for quite a while," Rivera said.
Though the Panthers will be without Lotulelei for the opener, Rivera thinks he could return to normal as early as Week 2.
"We'll see how he is next week. It falls right into the realm of what the doctors have been talking about in terms of time frame," Rivera said. "For him to have played, he would have had to feel really good on Monday and then on Tuesday, but coming out of Monday he was a little sorer than we would have liked, so we backed off a little bit.
"He had a good week of work in terms of preparation to get back on the field, but at the end of the day you don't want to push a guy into something that might be worse for him. We're going to be smart with that one for sure."
Veteran Kyle Love is expected to start in Lotulelei's place.
With Brockel and Chandler also out, Rivera and the coaching staff will have to designate four other players as inactive for the opener. It won't be an easy decision, and it could be more difficult next week with all of the injured players having a good shot at returning.
"Richie is doing a great job, has been working real hard on the side," Rivera said. "Nate did something on Wednesday, so Thursday and Friday we just kind of backed off. He's been in the training room, getting some extra treatment to his surgically repaired knee. There's no structural damage; it just got sore and tired."
The Jaguars could be without three pieces on offense. Tight end Julius Thomas (hand) is out, wide receiver Marqise Lee (hamstring) is doubtful and running back Toby Gerhart (abdomen) is questionable.
View photos from the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their game at the Jaguars.