McDermott managing latest string of injuries

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CHARLOTTE – Injuries are nothing new for defensive coordinator Sean McDermott and his defense.

"Well, it seems to be what's happening this year," McDermott said. "We get a couple guys healthy and lose a couple.

"I'm extremely proud of the way they handled the situation the other night and to date through the season with what's happened."

All-Pro middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, the centerpiece of the defense, is among the latest to have gone down. Kuechly is in the concussion protocol after being carted off the field last Thursday against the Saints.

There's a long list of things the Panthers will miss if Kuechly is sidelined in the weeks to come.

"Luke does a great job of being the glue in terms of connecting people on the defense," McDermott said. "Anticipating things – he studies a tremendous amount of film. Just the position's job description alone, you connect the front end to the back end. That's one of the biggest things he does for us."

But there is confidence that the defense will come together if it doesn't have Kuechly.

A.J. Klein, who practiced Monday after missing Thursday's game with a concussion, was an effective replacement when Kuechly missed three-and-a-half games with a concussion last season with 29 tackles and one interception. And David Mayo impressed teammates and coaches when he was forced into action against the Saints.

"I've said this all along – not one man makes this team," safety Kurt Coleman said. "We have some talented guys that are sitting behind Luke. Those guys are prepared."

Added McDermott: "Let's face it, you're never going to be able to replace a player of Luke's caliber. I wouldn't expect anybody in this locker room to try to do that.

"I want everyone to be their own guys. They're here for a reason."

Kuechly isn't the only one the Panthers might need to replace on defense this week.

Nickel corner Leonard Johnson suffered a chest injury, and defensive end Mario Addison, who has five sacks in the last three games and leads the team with 6.5, suffered a foot injury against the Saints.

Neither was at practice Monday. Addison was in a protective boot, and Johnson was thankful the injury wasn't as bad as he initially feared after being hospitalized overnight Thursday.

"It was the worst pain I've ever felt in my life, but I can honestly say I'm starting to get better day by day. How fast the body can heal itself – it's just amazing," Johnson said. "I think I can play with this. It's just about how much pain I can tolerate. If I just keep progressing, hopefully I'll be ready. I'm hoping this week. I'm not sure if it's realistic, but that's what I'm shooting for."

View photos of the Panthers practice leading up to their game against the Raiders.

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