CHARLOTTE – After a scary flashback, it's looking like Kelvin Benjamin could be back in a flash.
The wide receiver fully participated in practice Thursday, four days after what had the look of Benjamin's second major injury to his left knee. Head coach Ron Rivera said Benjamin is on track to play Sunday when the Panthers visit the Patriots.
"He participated completely and looked good out there," Rivera said. "He worked really hard on Monday and Tuesday trying to get some swelling out, Wednesday was a get-back-on-your-feet day, and today he really moved pretty well. We feel very fortunate for Kelvin."
Two years ago at training camp, coming off a 1,000-yard rookie season, Benjamin blew out his left knee on a non-contact play and missed the entire year. Sunday against the Saints, Benjamin's left leg got caught underneath him as he slid to the ground on a hard tackle. He came off gingerly, then spent time on the training table – part of it with a towel draped over his head – before hobbling to the locker room.
"It's funny because something (head athletic trainer) Ryan Vermillion thought of was, 'Wow, you had a non-contact injury a couple of years, and then here there's a contact injury where you get bent over, and you're fortunate to have nothing as far as structural damage,'" Rivera said. "He's very fortunate."
On the other hand, linebacker Thomas Davis and center Ryan Kalil didn't practice for the second consecutive day, though there is significant hope for at least one of the team captains.
"I came back in the game," Davis said, "so I think I'll be fine."
Davis, who has a history of playing through injuries, sat out practice again with a rib injury suffered against the Saints. If Davis can't go, a situational combination of David Mayo and Shaq Thompson would try to fill his sizable shoes, but even if Davis doesn't practice Friday, don't be shocked if he's good to go Sunday.
"Knowing Thomas, he expects to be out there," Rivera said, pointing out that Davis did take part in walkthroughs each of the last two days. "There are very few quarterbacks who can go in there, not practice all week and then step up and play well as opposed to guys that are position players, and linebackers is one of those positions. You can miss a couple of days and play well, a veteran guy especially."
But a similar scenario could be a stretch for Kalil, who hasn't practiced since waking up the morning of the Week 2 game against Buffalo with a sore neck.
"He just continues to do the things the trainers have him doing, and he just feels better and better each day," Rivera said. "But it's one of those things we're going to be smart about."
Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei (shoulder) fully participated after sitting out Wednesday. Rookie defensive tackle Daeshon Hall, who has been a healthy scratch the past two games, woke up with knee soreness according to Rivera and didn't practice.
View photos from the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their game against the Patriots.