CHARLOTTE — The Carolina Panthers are creeping up on the kind of record they don’t want to set.
As expected, the Panthers placed free safety Haruki Nakamura on injured reserve Tuesday, two days after Nakamura aggravated a groin injury in the second half of a 30-20 win against Atlanta.
Nakamura becomes the 16th player to go on IR this year, which is two shy of the team record the Panthers established during the 2011 season.
To replace Nakamura on the 53-man roster, the Panthers signed safety Anderson Russell from the practice squad.
The Panthers made two other moves Tuesday, waiving offensive lineman Lee Ziemba from injured reserve and signing former Newberry (S.C.) College defensive back Kamaal McIlwain to the practice squad.
Ziemba, a seventh-round draft pick in 2011, underwent knee surgery in August after getting injured at training camp. Ziemba was suspended in October for four games after testing positive for a banned stimulant.
Ziemba did not receive an injury settlement, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
Nakamura, who had been playing with a pulled groin, is the fourth defensive starter to be lost for the season. He joins linebacker Jon Beason, cornerback Chris Gamble and defensive tackle Ron Edwards.
Nakamura’s injury leaves the Panthers extremely thin at safety. Sherrod Martin, who platooned with Nakamura, went on IR last week after tearing ligaments in his right knee.
Strong safety Charles Godfrey was sidelined for the Atlanta game with a back injury. His status for Sunday’s game at San Diego is uncertain.
The Panthers were down to their fourth and fifth safeties – seventh-round pick D.J. Campbell and special teams player Colin Jones – after Nakamura was hurt against the Falcons.
Nakamura, who signed in the offseason after backing up Pro Bowl safety Ed Reed for four years in Baltimore, struggled in his first season with Carolina. He gave up several big plays in a Week 4 loss at Atlanta, including a 59-yard catch by Roddy White in the final minute that set up Matt Bryant’s game-winning field goal.
Nakamura was relegated to a part-time role in recent weeks, giving way to Martin in obvious passing situations. Nakamura, who signed through the 2014 season, is tied with Captain Munnerlyn for the team lead with two interceptions; his 52 tackles rank seventh on the team.
Russell, 25, undrafted out of Ohio State in 2010, played in two games with Washington as a rookie. He spent last season on Miami’s practice squad before appearing in three games with the Dolphins this season.
He was signed to the Panthers’ practice squad last week.