Linebacker James Anderson said Jon Beason brought leadership and intensity to the defense.
When a play needed to be made, players knew that Beason would be the guy to get the job done.
Now we have to find a way to get that done, Anderson said.
For a second straight year, Beason is on injured reserve. After sitting out 15 games a season ago with a torn Achilles tendon, the middle linebacker is out for the rest of the season with a torn labrum in his shoulder and an unspecified knee injury. Both will require surgery.
Beason has played five games since signing a five-year, $51.5-million contract extension, with $25 million guaranteed, before the 2011 season.
An MRI earlier in the week revealed Beason, a three-time Pro Bowler, would need a procedure on his knee, originally thought to be sprained during the Week 3 game against the New York Giants. Coach Ron Rivera said he believed the shoulder injury occurred the week before against New Orleans.
(The knee) just seemed to bother him more and more, Rivera said. Then when he got the initial MRI, one of the ideas was to rest it, see how it was. Thats why hes had the last couple of games off. It didnt get any better. So the concern was it would worsen at that point. So they decided to do something about it.
Though he tried to play through them, the injuries affected Beasons ability to make tackles. He began the season as the Panthers top defender, racking up 17 tackles and a game-clinching interception against the Saints.
But as the weeks went on and the injuries mounted, his tackle total declined. He ultimately missed the Seattle and Dallas games in hopes rest would allow him to return.
Hes been a big-time part of this defense for a long time, so its definitely tough because we lose both leadership and talent on the defense, linebacker Jason Phillips said. But football is a 100 percent injury sport, so you have to push through and find guys to help you move on.
Rookie Luke Kuechly has played middle linebacker the past two games. He was a middle linebacker at Boston College before being drafted by Carolina. He started the first four games of the season at weakside linebacker.
Wednesday, Rivera said video shows Kuechly is better suited to middle linebacker.
Even when they bumped me to middle, Jon was still real helpful on the sideline this past game, Kuechly said. Just losing a guy like that whos a big part of the defense and sticking with the defense for the past couple of years, but hell still be around. But his presence was missed on the field.
In the two games he has started at middle linebacker, Kuechly has recorded 26 tackles, boosting his team-leading total to 51.
Still, Beason will be missed.
Hes a leader on defense and we have a lot of young guys playing, defensive end Greg Hardy said. He was a big influence on me when I came in as a rookie; helped me with a lot of things and helped me mold my game into what it is today.
You have to look for new leaders and a new force in the middle, and hopefully Luke can come in and dominate.
Jones: 704-358-5223; Twitter: @jjones9