It appears likely the Panthers will be without three starters – cornerback Chris Gamble (shoulder), linebacker Jon Beason (knee) and offensive guard Geoff Hangartner (knee) – when they host Seattle on Sunday at 4:05 p.m. in Bank of America Stadium.
All three missed practice again Thursday and coach Ron Rivera said the team is considering its personnel options as it begins finalizing preparations to meet the 2-2 Seahawks.
If Gamble doesn’t play, Rivera said veteran Captain Munnerlyn will move into the starting cornerback spot in the Panthers’ base defensive package. Munnerlyn will move to nickel back when they add an extra defensive back, slotting rookie Josh Norman in the cornerback spot.
Beason wouldn’t rule himself out of Sunday’s game though it seems unlikely.
“I don’t feel bad. Just trying to take it day to day,” said Beason, who has been banged up through most of the season.
Asked specifically about his availability for Sunday, Beason said, “It’s a long time away.”
Rivera said rookie weakside linebacker Luke Kuechly may move into Beason’s linebacker spot or they may use Jason Phillips there instead. Kuechly has taken some snaps at middle linebacker in practice this week. Rivera said it’s tempting to put Kuechly in the middle.
“You look at what could potentially happen and you say to yourself is the best thing to keep him static and just move one guy or is it to move guys around? We have to look at that and see how it impacts what we want to do,” Rivera said.
In Hangartner’s likely absence, the Panthers will again rely on Garry Williams.
“I’m just getting prepared. I’m just getting ready to go,” Williams said Thursday. “And if I’m up, I’m going to go out and give it my all.”
Williams said he thought he played “pretty good” against the Giants, who sacked Cam Newton twice in New York’s 36-7 victory on Sept. 20. The Panthers face another good pass-rushing team in Seattle, which had eight sacks in the first half of a win against Green Bay last week.
“They’ve got a nice little pass rush. We can’t take them for granted at all,” Williams said. “We’re just studying what they’re doing and preparing ourselves.”
Williams, who started 11 games in 2010, said he likes his role of football’s version of a utility infielder.
“I take that as an advantage. The more you can do, the more you can help this team,” Williams said. “Anything they ask me to do, I’m doing.”
Adams may watch: Rookie return man Joe Adams will likely miss his second straight game of the season on Sunday. Rivera said he will stick with Kealoha Pilares at kickoff return while using both Munnerlyn and Armanti Edwards at punt return.
Adams fumbled a kickoff and muffed a punt against the New York Giants, and he was ruled inactive 90 minutes before the Atlanta game last Sunday.
“In retrospect we may have expected a little too much from him as far as trying to return kicks as well,” Rivera said. “We want to give him a chance to step back, work on his craft and get comfortable catching the ball again.”
Adams averages 8.4 yards per punt return and 23.1 yards per kickoff return this season. But Adams has a penchant for looking downfield before securing the ball — something the Panthers have been working to correct.
“When you do watch on some of his college tape was his tendency to catch the ball with eyes down instead of into the catch,” Rivera said. “We’re trying to get him back to that point. We’re telling him to work to get downhill and then make your move."
Familiar look: Kuechly knows all about Seattle rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, having faced him three times when Kuechly’s Boston College Eagles faced N.C. State. Watching Wilson on tape this week reminded Kuechly of his college days.
“Chasing him around, that was the challenge,” Kuechly said. “A lot of guys in college can run but can’t throw or they can throw but can’t run, he’s a guy that can do it all. He can run, he can pass.
“He’s a smart quarterback, too. He knows where he’s going with the ball. That’s how he was in college. He knew how to pick apart our defense at BC and he did that a couple of times. He’s smart. Don’t misconceive his size. He can get around and he can throw the ball.”
Going steady: Offensive tackle Jordan Gross felt that despite the outcome of the Panthers’ game at Atlanta last Sunday, there were positives to take forward into the Seattle game and beyond.
What Gross hasn’t liked is the inconsistency that has plagued the Panthers through the first four weeks of the season.
“Our second and fourth games we’ve played well. Our first and third games we haven’t,” Gross said. “We can’t be up and down as much as that. If we play like we did against the Saints and the Falcons, we’ll win a lot more games. If we don’t, it’ll be tough.”
Staff writers Joe Person and Jonathan Jones contributed to this article.