CHARLOTTE – Head coach Ron Rivera is holding out some hope that rookie safety Robert Lester will be able to play Sunday at the Minnesota Vikings despite not practicing all week, but the situation is far from hopeless if Lester can't go.
Veteran Quintin Mikell practiced all week after missing the last two games with an ankle injury and is ready to step into the lineup at free safety if necessary.
"I really liked what I saw from Quintin in those first two games," Rivera said. "He's been involved and has kept himself mentally fit, and he's worked on his conditioning a lot.
"Looks like Mikell has a chance to be the starter, but we'll see how Robert is tomorrow, see how many reps Robert takes with the first group in the walkthrough. If he's ready to go, I'll start Robert because I want to keep playing the hot hand."
Lester (hamstring), who is listed as doubtful, recorded an interception in both of his games since being signed off the practice squad. He was joined on the sideline Friday by running back Kenjon Barner (foot), who made his NFL debut last week but is also as doubtful after missing practice for the first time this week.
"There is a little bit of frustration," Rivera said. "Kenjon had a great week of practice last week, did some nice things. But he complained the other day about (his foot), and then this morning when he got up he was very sore.
"We had him sit out today and just get treatment. We'll see tomorrow how he reacts to treatment."
Defensive tackle Dwan Edwards (hamstring), who has missed the last two games, is also listed as doubtful. Veteran Colin Cole (shoulder) fully participated in practice Friday after being limited the previous two days and is in line to make his third consecutive start.
"Colin Cole has done a great job," Rivera said. "He's a big, stout, physical guy that holds the point extremely well and has allowed Luke (Kuechly) to run. He's been very integral as far as our run stopping, and he's done some nice things as far as pushing the pocket so our ends can get to the quarterback."
Tight end Greg Olsen (foot) is probable, while cornerback D.J. Moore (knee) has been ruled out for the third consecutive game.