CHARLOTTE – The Panthers' depth at guard was tested against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, as starting right guard Chris Scott suffered a knee injury late in the second quarter and his replacement Jeff Byers was carted off the field with a foot injury a few plays later.
Head coach Ron Rivera said Byers' injury appears to be the most severe.
"We are concerned with Byers," Rivera said Monday. "Everybody is getting MRIs right now. We are waiting on the results."
The results came late Monday. Byers suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot, the same injury that ended center Ryan Kalil's 2012 season, and has already undergone surgery. Scott is day-to-day with a knee sprain.
In addition, cornerback James Dockery is expected to miss two-to-four weeks with a shoulder injury.
Regardless of how soon Scott returns, Byers' injury could create opportunities for Nate Chandler, the former defensive lineman and current offensive tackle who filled in admirably at right guard versus Atlanta. Alternatively, Chandler could move back to his backup role at tackle should the Panthers add another guard to the roster.
"Nate played well," Rivera said. "I got an opportunity to watch the tape and to listen to the offensive line coaches give me their evaluations of him and hear what (offensive coordinator) Mike Shula had to say about it as well. That was really good news.
"Offensively, our coaches did a nice job preparing him, getting him ready, and I also think Mike handled the play calling really well to help out and put Nate in a good position."
BOASTING BALANCE: At the midway point of the season, the Carolina offense has defined balance.
The Panthers have run 261 running plays and 261 passing plays. And they've displayed that balance at a time when NFL offenses have leaned towards passing the ball more frequently.
The exact 50/50 balance wasn't something the Panthers' coaching staff had in mind after eight games, but it isn't entirely an accident either.
"To me, it really all goes back to last year and doing the self-scout," Rivera said. "We were putting a lot of stress and pressure on the quarterback. (We wanted to) get back to what we did the year before, using our two tight end packages, using our 21 packages (two running backs and one tight end) and distributing the ball more evenly."
CONCERN FOR COACHES: With Denver Broncos head coach John Fox undergoing heart surgery on Monday and Houston Texans head coach Gary Kubiak collapsing and being rushed to hospital at halftime of his team's on Sunday, Rivera was asked about the strain coaching in the NFL has on one's health.
"It's a tough position. It's a tough job. But it is all part of it," Rivera said. "You have to be mindful of your own health and your own personal well-being.
"We have (Fox and Kubiak) in our thoughts and prayers."
Rivera said he encourages his coaches to get home and spend time with family when their work is done.
But in the NFL, there's no telling when that work will get done. Coaches commonly work late nights watching film and preparing for the next opponent.
"It's a hard work-life balance," said defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, who added that he often slept in his office when he was the defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles. "You can overdo it easily in this business."
"It's scary (what Fox and Kubiak are going through)," McDermott added. "It's a great reminder for all of us."