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Moving forward through uncertainty at quarterback before Seattle

Bryce Young, Andy Dalton

CHARLOTTE – There aren't many answers to be given Wednesday as Frank Reich fielded questions on starting quarterback Bryce Young popping up on the injury report with an ankle.

The Panthers held a walk-through following Monday night's loss to the Saints, so the injury report was based on projected participation. The list included Young, the first overall pick in this year's draft, as a non-participant. The rookie took mental reps on the practice field while veteran backup Andy Dalton led the offense.

Reich said he didn't know if Young would be available for Sunday's matchup at Seattle, the longest away trip of the 2023 season off a shortened week. He said the coaches will re-evaluate his condition before Thursday's regular practice.

Reich said Young sustained the ankle injury at some point during the game against New Orleans, but he continued to play and didn't think it impacted his performance. Young led the Panthers' best drive of the night late in the fourth quarter, scoring a touchdown and converting on a 2-point try.

"Monday night, I just heard that he had been in for treatment," Reich said. "It wasn't until Tuesday – I don't think much of the Monday night treatment thing, just OK, I see the injury report and see who came in for treatment – I don't make much of it until it's 24 hours later, next day, we'll see how they respond. And then he was still on there."

Reich said his strategy around making decisions with injured players leans on the doctor, the player, and himself – in that order. 

What that means in relation to Young and Seattle was still being determined Wednesday. 

"All three have a say in the decision, obviously, weighing most heavily the doctor, then the player, and then the coach," Reich said. "Because what I've learned over the years is A – I'm not a medical doctor, so trust what the doctor says; B – trust the player because players know their body; C – as the head coach, try to navigate and do the right thing for the team and the player." 

If Young isn't able to go against the Seahawks, the Panthers have an experienced veteran option on the roster in Dalton. Dalton has started in 162 games and is in his 13th NFL season, and he's been around the team since signing in March, learning the new offense. 

Reich said he wouldn't anticipate a sweeping change to the game plan if Dalton plays in Young's stead, even though that uncertainty continues to loom.

"When we're doing a game plan, our core stuff is always going to be our core stuff," Reich said. "Whether it's Bryce or Andy, I'm not sure there would be much difference between the two in a game plan. Maybe a couple plays, but not much. So we'll just move forward like we normally would. …

"Andy got the work out there today. So that's all we have to go off for right now. We take the approach of game planning for our team to win the game and our quarterback to execute at a high level, whoever that is."

Andy Dalton

Running back Miles Sanders agreed that his process wouldn't change as the quarterback situation remains indefinite.

"I just know with either quarterback, I'm just going to do my job," Sanders said. "And our main job is to protect both guys. So that's what my job is."

Wide receiver Adam Thielen felt similarly about the situation, repeating that every person on the field has to look within himself to improve regardless of who commands the offense in a given week. 

Thielen said they trust the offense regardless of who is available and pointed out how Dalton was brought in to be the experienced signal-caller if the Panthers needed him.

"He wasn't brought here just to be here," Thielen said of Dalton. "He was brought here (so) that if he needed to go in the game, he could operate at a high level. So I would imagine that whoever's in there is going to operate at a high level, and we're going to find a way to become a better offense and be the offense that we really want to be." 

Reich said that their confidence does not adjust if Dalton has to go in at Seattle over Young.

But there's no certainty. Young could be ready to practice Thursday and go back to start Sunday.

They just don't know yet. 

"This is why you bring someone like Andy in," Reich said. "Our goal is to put our team in position to win championships. And even despite a tough start, that's still our vision. That's still our goal. That's what we're working toward.

"My experience, personally, as a player and as a coach, is you're going to need somebody for one game, or two or three, or somewhere along the line, and you're going to need to win those games. If Andy plays, we believe he gives us a very good chance to win."

Take a look at the best pictures from pregame, in-game, and postgame action from Monday's home opener against the Saints.

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