SPARTANBURG — Jeff Otah’s balky left knee – which has undergone surgeries and been the subject of much fan frustration over the past two-plus years – will determine the offensive tackle’s future with the Panthers.
Otah met with team officials here Wednesday, a day after his trade to the New York Jets was voided because of a failed physical. Otah then traveled to Charlotte to be examined by the Panthers’ doctors.
General manager Marty Hurney said Otah is scheduled to finish the physical Thursday morning, after which the Panthers will make a decision on his future.
The Panthers could activate him, cut him, trade him or put him on the physically unable to perform list.
“We sat down with Jeff, had a nice discussion,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “Everything hinges on him going back and getting that physical.”
During the 45-minute meeting, Otah expressed a willingness to continue playing. Otah, 6-foot-6 and 340 pounds, looked to be out of shape at the organized team activities in May when he aggravated his knee.
“He does (want to play). That’s one of the questions we asked him,” Rivera said. “But it goes back to what’s happening and what unfolds after the physical.”
Otah, 26, has one year left on a contract that will pay him about $1.1 million this year. He has missed 31 of the past 35 games, dating to December 2009.
Injury report: Brandon Hogan and Josh Norman, the two young cornerbacks expected to compete with Captain Munnerlyn for the No. 2 spot, are sidelined with leg injuries. And Rivera is getting concerned.
Norman has been out several days with a hamstring injury, while Hogan sat out Wednesday after developing soreness in his left knee. Hogan had ACL surgery on the knee at the end of his final year at West Virginia and missed most of his rookie season.
“The young guys, you make good strides and take a couple steps back because you’re not on the field. You’d like to have them back on the field. In fact, they’ve got to get back on the field because the other guys that are getting reps are getting better. And that’s the bottom line,” Rivera said.
“It’s unfortunate that they get nicked. But at the same time, you’ve got to take care of yourself, do what you’re supposed to and do the best you can to get back out there.”
Darius Butler has taken advantage of the increased work, said Rivera. He also mentioned Josh Thomas and R.J. Stanford.
Besides the corners, three undrafted rookie receivers are out with hamstring issues – Rico Wallace, Lamont Bryant and Hubert Anyiam.
Davis Update: Linebacker Thomas Davis sat out practice for a third straight day Wednesday but said afterward his troublesome right knee is fine.
“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with my knee,” Davis said after watching the Panthers’ 2-hour, 45-minute practice. “My knee feels good. I feel good.”
Rivera has said the Panthers have rested Davis in practice as a precautionary measure. Davis has torn his right ACL three times.
“I’m sure I’ll be back very soon,” said Davis, who wore a white sock over his right calf.
• Former Wofford golfer William McGirt, runner-up in the PGA Tour’s RBC Canadian Open last Sunday, was on the sideline watching practice as a guest of team president Danny Morrison, the former Wofford athletic director.
McGirt, who lives in nearby Boiling Springs, is first alternate to get into the PGA Championship next week at Kiawah Island. He fell $11 — yes, $11 — short of earning a spot in the field but there’s a high likelihood he’ll be in next week.
• Olindo Mare had a good night, going 4-for-4 on field goals of 45 yards or longer. Mare’s last one hit from 50 yards, with room to spare.
• Veteran punter Nick Harris, a free agent brought in to compete with rookie Brad Nortman, got off several long, spiraling punts. Nortman appeared to get better hang time, but was less consistent with several shanks.
Cam Newton’s night got off to an inauspicious start when his first pass during team drills was intercepted by Chris Gamble. But Newton and the offense bounced back and looked better than the defense.
Newton’s best pass was a deep sideline throw to Steve Smith, who went up between Munnerlyn and safety Haruki Nakamura for the catch, then ran into the end zone.
• The biggest traffic back-up since camp started was Wednesday afternoon – not near Wofford, but at the Chick-fil-A on U.S. 29.
THREE QUESTIONS WITH …
Outside linebacker James Anderson
Q: How big an emphasis are you guys putting on creating turnovers?
We really put a focus on takeaways. We have turnover circuit and different things. Every time we have an opportunity and we’re close to the ball-carrier, we’re going for that takeaway. So that’s really been a big focus for us.
Q: You’re still on the strong side. Can you play either side, or all three linebacker spots for that matter?
I’d like to think I can play all three. Whatever combination is best, who’s in a groove, what kind of game plan we have – we have the ability to rotate guys and really make us more successful.
Q: What’s this about a points-based competition where the winning side (offense or defense) gets to sleep in?
I don’t know what you’re talking about (smiles). We’re out there competing every day. Coach will handle that. And if we get to sleep in, we get to sleep in. I just go out there and play defense.
GETTING TO KNOW ...
Offensive tackle Bruce Campbell
Height: 6-6 Weight: 315
NFL experience: Spent two seasons in Oakland after the Raiders drafted him in the fourth round in 2010. Played in 14 games, with no starts.
The scoop: The Panthers acquired Campbell in March in exchange for reserve running back/kick returner Mike Goodson. The Panthers believe Campbell, 24, was miscast as a guard in the Raiders’ zone-blocking scheme. Campbell, who turned heads at the combine after leaving Maryland as a junior, is currently Jordan Gross’ backup at left tackle.
Bet you didn’t know: Campbell’s father, also named Bruce, played basketball at Providence and was an eighth-round draft pick of the New Jersey Nets in 1978. He later played overseas.