Jon Beason easing into new role with Panthers entering the regular season

jjones@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 2, 2013 

Just as Jon Beason was about to answer a reporter’s question on his play Thursday night, general manager Dave Gettleman had a few questions for the linebacker at his locker.

“How many snaps did you get today?” Gettleman asked Beason.

“Twelve, I think,” Beason responded.

“How do you feel?” Gettleman asked. Beason said, “All right. I wanted to do something,”

“I know, I know,” Gettleman said. “How’s your knee feel?”

“It’s pretty good,” he said.

The general manager’s questions were good enough to replace the first few questions of a more formal interview with Beason after the Panthers’ 25-10 victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the team’s final tune-up.

Beason played 26 snaps in two exhibitions this preseason, getting his first game action since last September in Week 4 against the Falcons. Microfracture knee surgery in October put him on injured reserve and sidelined him for all of training camp before he made his return to the practice field in mid-August.

Are those 26 snaps and handful of practices enough for Beason to be ready for Seattle on Sunday?

Panthers coach Ron Rivera was pleased with Beason’s involvement in practices and meetings while he was injured, saying his mental reps didn’t go to waste. Beason will be playing at weakside linebacker after sliding over from middle linebacker, where he went to the Pro Bowl three straight years. That spot is now occupied by second-year star Luke Kuechly.

“Me, I get stronger as I go, and I’m accustomed to not coming out at all, ever,” Beason said. “So it’s going to be an adjustment. I’m in a situation with the knee and coming back where taking pressure off that is going to be the best thing, especially early. It’s a good situation actually.”

Beason said he’s comfortable playing at weakside, but he has to adjust to a position that doesn’t require him to roam around the middle. Instead he has specific assignments, and at times this preseason has over-pursued in an effort to make the play.

“I saw a great athlete running out there trying to make something happen,” Rivera said of Beason Thursday night. “It was really fun to watch. I know he’s frustrated with himself, he ran himself out of a couple of plays trying to make them. It’s good. It really is good to see.

“He’s got so much ability, and couple him with Luke and (Thomas Davis) and I think those three guys are going to be very formidable.”

Beason was frustrated Thursday. He played two series, tallied zero defensive statistics and was part of a defense that allowed one touchdown.

The coaching staff emphasizes not only tackles, takeaways and pass breakups, but also “factors.” The staff grades for factors, plays a defender does well enough to enable a teammate to make a play.

After the game, Beason said he felt like he didn’t contribute because he couldn’t get in on a play.

“The game didn’t really come to me,” he said. “It was two drives, and it was early. It’s going to be a lot longer come next week. I’m trying to work through it and get comfortable and do your job knowing that everyone has a fit, and as long as we do well that’s all the really matters.”

Beason likely won’t see every defensive snap Sunday against the Seahawks. He said 30 snaps is a safe number considering the long-term health of his knee. With veteran Chase Blackburn as the primary backup, Rivera feels comfortable with the Panthers’ depth at weakside.

If all goes to plan, eventually Beason won’t have to be restrained by a snap limit.

“We’ll be ready to roll,” Beason later told Gettleman on Thursday. “That’s all that matters, right? The other stuff will come, right?”

“Yes, Jon,” Gettleman said. “It will.”

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9

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