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Rivera gets early read on Falcons


CHARLOTTE – With a rare Sunday off, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera had an opportunity to watch some NFL football on television.

To no one's surprise, he turned to the channel featuring the Atlanta Falcons-San Diego Chargers contest.

The Panthers travel to Atlanta this week, and Rivera previously worked as the defensive coordinator in San Diego. Secondary/passing defense coordinator Steve Wilks worked with Rivera on the Chargers' staff before joining him in Carolina, and after watching the Falcons and Chargers go head-to-head, they offered some unique insight.

"We were in a meeting earlier talking about some of the things we saw," Rivera said.

"It was great because when they were doing things on the defensive side for San Diego, I had a pretty good feel for what they were trying to do. I saw some things that were successful and things that weren't so successful."

The Falcons emerged with a decisive 27-3 victory to improve to 3-0, joining the Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals as the NFL's only unbeaten teams.

"They've got an impressive bunch," Rivera said.

TD SET TO RETURN: Linebacker Thomas Davis worked vigorously to recover in time to play against the Giants in Week 3, but his hamstring injury still forced him out of action.

"I'm definitely feeling better," Davis said. "I was very hopeful last week, but given the short week and the injury I had – a tweaked hamstring is never one of those things that just heals overnight – we got as close as we possibly could, but it just wasn't ready."

As for his availability against the Falcons on Sunday, Davis proclaimed: "I will be playing against Atlanta."

He also doesn't want anyone to worry about his right knee – which has been surgically repaired three times.

"The knee is good," Davis said. "You don't have to ask any more knee questions. The knee is good."

OTHER INJURIES: Rivera said running back Jonathan Stewart (ankle) and offensive tackle Byron Bell (ankle) are cleared to practice this week after missing last Thursday's game against the Giants.

"(Byron) has been working really hard. It was a big disappointment for him as a person to not get an opportunity to play last week," Rivera said. "He's done everything he can to play (in Week 4)."

Linebacker Jon Beason played against the Giants, but he did so with a sore shoulder.

"He tried to play through it and it showed a little bit," Rivera said. "If it had been a normal week, he probably doesn't have an issue with it. He struggled a bit with his tackling, but the player he is, he tried to play through it."

With some extra time off after the Thursday game, Rivera said Beason "should be good to go" when the Panthers play the Falcons.

Defensive end Greg Hardy was wearing a cast on his right hand on Monday. Hardy said he fractured his thumb in two places against the Giants but hopes to play at Atlanta.

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