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Quarterback Sam Darnold activated

Sam Darnold

CHARLOTTE — The Panthers activated Sam Darnold from injured reserve Saturday, and the team's opening week starter is expected to play a role Sunday against the Buccaneers.

Darnold has practiced for the last two weeks since being designated to return from injured reserve. He went on IR in Week 10 with a shoulder injury.

The Panthers are still going to start Cam Newton Sunday, but Darnold will back him up.

They're trying to see what they have in Darnold since he's the only quarterback under contract for next season, as well as to try to help the passing game.

The Panthers also made several other Christmas Day adjustments to the roster, to help fill in some gaps created by injuries and COVID-19.

They activated defensive tackle Derrick Brown from the reserve/COVID-19 list. They were down to two healthy defensive tackles in practice Friday.

Veteran cornerback Rashaan Melvin was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Saturday.

They also promoted five players from the practice squad.

They promoted offensive lineman Mike Horton, running back Reggie Bonnafon, cornerback Madre Harper, and tight end Stephen Sullivan as COVID-19 elevations, and defensive lineman Frank Herron as a standard elevation.

Sam Tecklenburg will start at center this week, since Pat Elflein remains on the reserve/COVID-19 list. That will give the Panthers their 11th different combination of starting offensive linemen in 15 games this week.

Horton can also snap (along with reserve Trent Scott) so the Panthers have another option in the middle of the line.

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