Comments from Carolina Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera.
On the status of tackle Jordan Gross: He worked out a little bit today on the side and looked good. So that's very, very encouraging, and we'll see how he is tomorrow morning after the workout.
On if Gross' past experience against the Atlanta Falcons would help him since he didn't practice this week: The big thing, too, is he is a very veteran guy. He's one of those guys that it could probably be good for him to miss a couple of days anyway to get a little rest for the body. We've got a couple of guys like that. Jeremy (Shockey) and Steve (Smith) had Wednesday off, and they came back and practiced very well. It's encouraging. The big thing, obviously, is just having the strength in that ankle.
On if Travelle Wharton would start at left tackle if Gross cannot play: We've got a couple of combinations. I don't want to show our hand before we have to. But he is most certainly one of the options we have there. The other option would be to have Bryant Browning up and Lee Ziemba up as well. The other option is having (Mackenzy) Bernadeau involved.
On if Kealoha Pilares will return kickoffs after being inactive last week with a quad injury: Yes, unless because of all the mixing and matching, we may have to do some things. We'll see. If Kealoha is not up, then Armanti (Edwards) would be the guy back there. We probably won't know until Sunday morning. I'd love to have Kealoha back there, but as you go through these things and you try to get your ups and your downs and who fits where, that's one of the things we have to consider. Your hands are kind of tied when you can only play 46 out of your 53.
On who will start at defensive tackle: It will be (Frank) Kearse and Andre (Neblett) starting out for us. We'll rotate O.G. (Ogemdi Nwagbuo) and Jason Shirley in. When we get into our sub packages, we'll use combinations of those guys as well as Greg Hardy, Antwan Applewhite and Charles Johnson. I'd rather not have to use Charles inside if I had my druthers.
On if newly signed defensive tackles Ogemdi Nwagbuo and Jason Shirley picked things up quickly: Yes. Jason's been here for about five weeks, so he's got a better background. But O.G.'s just a smart young man who's very bright. He's been in a system similar to this one as far as our sub packages that I used in San Diego. So it didn't surprise me that O.G. seems to have picked it up pretty well.
On the importance of getting a quality win against a team with a winning record like the Falcons: Absolutely. But I think the thing that people misconstrue is that winning in the NFL is hard (no matter who you play). There are a million ways to lose a game, but there is only way to win a game - and that's to outscore your opponent.