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Panthers get starters back


CHARLOTTE – With first place in the division on the line in New Orleans, the Panthers picked a perfect time to get healthy.

Defensive end Charles Johnson (knee), running back DeAngelo Williams (quad), linebacker Chase Blackburn (foot) and tight end Ben Hartsock (knee) are all set to return to action against the Saints.

Guard Chris Scott (knee) and linebacker Jordan Senn (hamstring) are the only Panthers who will not play due to injury.

"I'm excited about the fact that we'll have some of our top line guys back," head coach Ron Rivera said. "It's good to have the young guys get opportunities, but I'm thrilled.

"It's a great situation to be in. As we get into this stretch run we can get everybody back healthy and, hopefully, we can continue on that way."

Rivera said Williams and Blackburn will assume their roles as starters.

However, he made it clear that rookie linebacker A.J. Klein – who played in Blackburn's absence the last three games – will continue to play a role on defense.

Defensive ends Mario Addison, Frank Alexander and Wes Horton also made solid contributions with Johnson inactive the last two weeks, giving Rivera more confidence in the team's depth.

"We have young guys that are in the wings that have played a lot for us that have made plays for us," Rivera said. "We've learned some things about us as a football team."

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