CHARLOTTE – Offensive tackle David Foucault got his first NFL action in the final minutes of the Panthers' blowout loss to the Baltimore Ravens, going toe-to-toe with three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Elvis Dumervil with mixed results.
After Foucault successfully blocked Dumervil on one pass play, Dumervil got by Foucault and applied pressure on the quarterback the next snap.
"He knew the snap count was on one, and he said, 'I'm going hard,' " Foucault said. "And he got me."
Foucault can laugh about it now, but the undrafted rookie from Canada knows it might be no laughing matter the next time he's called upon. With Garry Williams on injured reserve with a back injury, Foucault is the only offensive tackle on the active roster besides starters Byron Bell and Nate Chandler.
"I'm the guy right behind them, so I have to learn fast. I need to be ready," Foucault said. "It's very exciting because it's a big opportunity, but the other side of it is that I'm very young at this position.
"I have to really focus on working hard on all the techniques, and I'm getting more reps in practice. That's good because I need those to get better."
Head coach Ron Rivera said the Panthers have a "whole host of guys" who are versatile enough to play tackle if necessary, but he's comfortable with Foucault in the role.
"He's done some pretty good things," Rivera said. "He played at the end of the Ravens game, and we thought he did a nice job in a situation where they were blitzing and trying to get sacks and stats. I thought he handled himself pretty well."
Foucault came close to playing again last week against the Chicago Bears when Bell suffered a toe injury. But Bell didn't come out of the game, and after sitting out practice Wednesday, he returned on a limited basis Thursday and declared himself good to go for Sunday's game at Cincinnati.
"It's just sore, but it's nothing that's going to keep me out," Bell said. "Guys get hurt all the time, and you don't even see it. You just have to fight through it."
STEWART SIGHTING: Bell was joined on the practice field by running back Jonathan Stewart, who practiced on a limited basis to boost hopes that he can play for the first time since suffering a knee injury in Week 3.
"We're optimistically, cautiously excited," Rivera said. "He moved around pretty well and did some good things. He worked with the team initially, and then we put him on the side to finish up the rest of the workout they had designed for him. He took some reps and moved around. He's getting stronger."
Running back Darrin Reaves (hip) fully participated after sitting out Wednesday, and linebacker Thomas Davis (elbow) returned on a limited basis.
WORKING ON THE SIDE: While several players are on the mend, defensive end Charles Johnson (hip) did not practice Thursday after practicing Wednesday.
"It's what he dealt with last week, so after a day of work yesterday, we backed him off today," Rivera said. "We had a couple of guys that we're trying to be careful with, just trying to be smart."
Another one is tight end Greg Olsen, who again sat out practice to rest an ankle injury that he was able to play through against the Bears.
"I'd rather practice than not, but sometimes in the bigger picture it's more important to get feeling good so you don't have to deal with it throughout the season," said Olsen, who has started 115 consecutive games since 2007. "I'll be out there this weekend."
SIDELINED: After virtually ruling out cornerback Bene Benwikere (ankle) and running back DeAngelo Williams (ankle) for the Bengals game earlier in the week, Rivera offered a similar prognosis for cornerback Josh Norman (concussion).
"He hasn't done anything in the protocol, so I'd probably guess yes," Rivera said when asked if Norman would be out.
Rivera said newly signed James Dockery was concentrating on outside corner, with Charles Godfrey focusing on Benwikere's nickel corner role.