Panthers promote safety Lester from practice squad

CHARLOTTE – The Panthers have welcomed a familiar face back to both the 53-man roster and practice squad, promoting safety Robert Lester and signing guard Chris Scott to the practice squad.

Additionally, Carolina waived linebacker D.J. Smith, who played in one game and was inactive for two games after being signed on Sept. 23.

Lester, who played in 12 games with four starts as a rookie in 2013, spent the first six games this season on the practice squad but now joins a roster dealing with at least one lingering injury in the secondary. Head coach Ron Rivera said Monday that cornerback Bene Benwikere is likely to miss his second consecutive game Sunday at Green Bay with an ankle injury, and cornerback Josh Norman's status is unclear after he missed last week's game at Cincinnati with a concussion.

The Panthers have relied heavily on their nickel package lately – featuring five defensive backs and two linebackers instead of four defensive backs and three linebackers – so adding a defensive back at the expense of a linebacker makes sense regardless of the injury situation. Lester also could provide a spark on special teams.

As an undrafted rookie from Alabama last season, Lester spent the first two games on the practice squad before joining the 53-man roster. He intercepted three passes and recovered one fumble in addition to recording 21 tackles on defense and three tackles on special teams.

The practice squad addition of Scott, who played in 10 games with eight starts for Carolina in 2013, is the Panthers' first roster move involving an offensive lineman since tackle Garry Williams was placed on injured reserve on Sept. 27.

Scott started the first eight games in 2013, replacing Amini Silatolu at left guard in the season opener before taking over at right guard when Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury. Scott then suffered a knee injury that slowed him the rest of the season, and he was waived in the final roster cutdown this year.

Silatolu left the Cincinnati game with a calf injury, and Fernando Velasco – who replaced Silatolu – suffered an injury but didn't miss any time.

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