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Notes: Edwards injury could usher Adams return


CHARLOTTE – The groin injury that kept Panthers wide receiver Armanti Edwards out of practice Thursday may give rookie Joe Adams a chance to play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"(Armanti) strained his groin yesterday, and he didn't practice today," head coach Ron Rivera said. "We'll probably have Joe Adams up if Armanti can't go."

Edwards served as the Panthers' kick returner last week against Denver after Kealoha Pilares went on injured reserve, in addition to earning a limited role in the wide receiver rotation.

"Armanti hit a couple real nice (returns) for us, and he's done some good things. I'm pretty excited for Armanti," Rivera said. "Hopefully, we'll have a good feel for where he is tomorrow."

Adams, who hasn't been active since losing two fumbles against the New York Giants in Week 3, has been working hard to earn the coaches' trust.

"I have really tried to pay close attention to (Joe), and he's doing a lot of work, he's put his nose to the grindstone," Rivera said. "He's stayed after practice and he's been very diligent catching (punts)."

If Edwards is unavailable, wide receiver David Gettis along with Adams will be among the options considered to return kicks. Rivera said Adams will return punts if he's indeed active.

"He'll be one of the guys in the mix. Most certainly in the punt return, possibly in the kick return," Rivera said. "And he can do some gunner stuff for us in punt coverage."

Elsewhere on the injury report, linebacker Thomas Davis, defensive tackle Dwan Edwards, left tackle Jordan Gross, center Geoff Hangartner, guard Amini Silatolu and wide receiver Steve Smith all returned to practice.

Defensive end Antwan Applewhite (hamstring) did not participate, and defensive tackle Ron Edwards was given the day off.

KNOW THE FOE: The Buccaneers had the element of the unknown working in their favor when they faced the Panthers in the season opener.

Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano made his NFL coaching debut, making Carolina's first opponent of the season even more challenging to prepare for.

"To me, the toughest games to coach are your first couple of the season, because there is that great unknown, especially against a new coaching staff with a new philosophy," Rivera said. "That's the hard part."

The head-to-head contest in Week 1, and a season worth of game film, have the Panthers more aware of what's to come from their division rivals this time around.  

"Now, you feel a little more comfortable about who you are playing, what they're doing, and I think that'll help with the preparation," Rivera said. "We'll see how it unfolds when we get to Sunday."

RUN SUPPORT: The Buccaneers are No. 1 in the NFL against the run, but the Panthers know they can't let that dissuade them from trying to establish the run.

That's where recently acquired offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges could come into play.

"There's no secret – I like running the ball," Bridges said. "It's a very good Tampa defense. They run around a lot, stunt a lot. They're undersized, but they're very athletic.

"We've got to get hat on hat and get moving, get DeAngelo and Jonny rolling."

Bridges was referring to running backs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart. Williams had minus-1 yard against the Buccaneers in the opener, and Stewart was inactive.

Bridges, a 318-pound veteran signed by the Panthers on Wednesday, worked at both guard spots in practice Thursday and is still working himself into football shape. Rivera said that rookie Amini Silatolu will remain the starter at left guard, while Jeff Byers is still the starter at right guard for now.

MILITARY APPRECIATION: Defensive end Charles Johnson sported a cap around the locker room from Tuesday's visit to Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C.

He also brought back a new appreciation for the other men in uniform.

"It was a good experience going there and seeing what they do. We had good interaction," Johnson said. "They love seeing football players come out there. You don't realize how they really look up to you until you talk to them. It's kind of cool."

Johnson was joined on the outing by teammates Gary Barnidge, Richie Brockel, Jeff Byers, Armanti Edwards, Frank Kearse and Luke Kuechly. Former Panthers standout Mike Rucker was part of the traveling party to the Army installation as well, along with Sir Purr and two TopCats.

Staff writer Max Henson and senior writer Bryan Strickland contributed to this report.

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