CHARLOTTE – Even when it comes to the first injury report for the first game of the regular season, it's rare for an NFL team to have a clean bill of health.
The Panthers aren't fully in the clear, but head coach Ron Rivera is pleased that no players on the 53-man roster had to sit out all of practice Monday, with Thursday's season opener at the Denver Broncos looming.
Safety Dean Marlowe suffered a hamstring injury four weeks ago but has returned to limited participation in practice. Rivera also thought it a good sign that linebacker A.J. Klein (back) partially participated, and rookie defensive tackle Vernon Butler suffered a hand injury in practice that didn't seem to have Rivera overly concerned.
"It is getting better," Rivera said of Marlowe. "Vern did something to his hand in practice, and they backed him off to take a look at it. A.J. actually did more than we anticipated, actually had a really good day."
In addition, stars of each side of the ball with injury concerns of late were nowhere to be found on the injury report.
Defensive tackle Kawann Short didn't practice last week with what he described as a sore foot, but he was full-go Monday. Short said Sunday said just had to get his "wind back" after the short time off.
Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin was also full-go as he continues to make significant progress toward Rivera's stated goal of 30-35 snaps for him in his first game action in more than a year following an ACL injury.
"He's worked himself back into football condition. Remember that he missed a whole year," Rivera said. "If it is more, great. He's actually done some really good things. You see him really hitting his stride in terms of taking more reps, doing extra work, working on Cam on the side more.
"You can see him gaining more and more confidence."
Of the players working to be ready for the opener, Marlowe might face the tallest task. He said Sunday that he was initially told it would take 4-6 weeks for his hamstring to heal, and he's just entering the first part of that time frame.
"I'm not 100 percent, but way better," Marlowe said. "I'm in the training room constantly. It's just a process. I'm very impatient. I really want to get out there. I don't want to miss any games, don't want to miss any practices."
The reality is that even if everybody on the roster is healthy come Thursday, not everybody will be active. Come Thursday evening, the Panthers will have to declare seven players on the 53-man on the roster as inactive.
View photos from the Panthers' week of practice leading up to their game at Denver.