BALTIMORE Jon Beason needed just three practices before he was ready to hit the field again for the Panthers.
The three-time Pro Bowler started Thursday night at weakside linebacker, playing in his first live-action game since Week 4 of last season against Atlanta.
Beason went on injured reserve last year with shoulder and knee injuries, and he had microfracture surgery on his knee during October. Since then, he has rehabilitated the knee, and he didn’t participate in a padded practice until Sunday.
“He’s another guy that’s a leader, another guy that knows what he’s doing,” middle linebacker Luke Kuechly said this week at practice. “He’s strong, he’s communicating, he knows what he’s supposed to be and it’s just fun to have him out there.”
Coach Ron Rivera said this week the team would get “creative” with Beason, saying simply keeping him at weakside wouldn’t be a good use of all of his talents. Beason had been the franchise’s middle linebacker until Kuechly won that position last year and eventually became The Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Beason didn’t make any standout plays through two quarters Thursday, but his versatility was welcomed by the Panthers. On the first drive, Beason played in a base 4-3 defense as well as in the 3-4.
His presence was especially needed when Chase Blackburn, who had been filling in for Beason, did not dress because of an unspecified injury. Blackburn caught a helmet to his back last week against Philadelphia and played just one series.
Injury bug: The Panthers didn’t escape Baltimore without getting banged up.
Kealoha Pilares injured his knee on the opening kickoff and was listed as out before the end of the quarter. During the second quarter, Amini Silatolu’s night was finished because of a knee injury.
In the second half, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn went to the sideline with a hand injury. ESPN reported the X-rays came back negative. And finally, rookie running back Kenjon Barner was announced as out for the game during the third quarter with a foot injury.
Jimmy time: Derek Anderson wore his hat on the sideline longer than during previous exhibitions while Jimmy Clausen got his first chance to run with Carolina’s second team this preseason.
Clausen went 2-for-4 for 20 yards as he tried to protect a dwindling Panthers lead during the fourth quarter.
There’s no backup quarterback controversy, but the Panthers wanted to see Clausen in action with a second-team line and receivers in a game.
Sitting out: Nearly a dozen Panthers players sat out the game.
Running back Jonathan Stewart; fullbacks Mike Tolbert and Mike Zordich; wide receivers Armanti Edwards, Joe Adams and Domenik Hixon, tackle Bruce Campbell, guard Edmund Kugbila, Blackburn, tight end Ben Hartsock, defensive end Mario Addison and defensive tackle Frank Kearse were sidelined.
Coaching reunion: Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott ran into some familiar faces during pregame warmups.
Rivera and McDermott were on the Philadelphia Eagles staff during the early 2000s with three Ravens coaches: coach John Harbaugh, run game coordinator Juan Castillo and senior defensive assistant Steve Spagnuolo.
• The Panthers’ defense has double the touchdowns (four) of the offense (two) this preseason. The special teams unit has one following Ted Ginn Jr.’s punt return.
• Armond Smith was ejected from the game midway through the fourth quarter when he kicked a Ravens player following a 10-yard rush.
• Brad Nortman booted a 64-yard punt early. He’s safely in as the Panthers punter for the season after Carolina drafted him in 2012, and that 64-yarder would have registered as his career high (he hit a 63-yard punt last year).
• Steve Smith came to the aid of his quarterback when 6-foot-2, 248-pound Daryl Smith was flagged for a late hit on Cam Newton. Steve Smith ran up to the linebacker and shoved him after he hit Newton while on the ground following a scramble.
• Charlotte Latin alum Chris Canty got the start on the defensive line for the Ravens. The Panthers showed interest in the former New York Giant this offseason, but the veteran was out of their price range.
• Kawann Short had what might have been his best play of the preseason with less than six minutes to play in the first half. The rookie defensive tackle blew past guard Jah Reid and sacked Joe Flacco for a loss of 1 on first down.
• Despite leading the team in preseason catches and receiving yards, David Gettis wasn’t very visible with the first-team offense. He had just one catch for 6 yards when in the game with Newton.
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