With guard Garry Williams' season over, Panthers look for answers on line

jjones@charlotteobserver.comSeptember 9, 2013 

Ron Rivera’s fear about Garry Williams’ left knee was confirmed Monday, and the Panthers will have to move forward without their starting right guard.

An MRI revealed Williams tore his medial collateral ligament and anterior cruciate ligament during the first quarter of Sunday’s game against Seattle, Rivera said.

The season-ending injury will place Williams on the team’s injured reserve for the second time since 2011 when he broke his ankle in the preseason. It also leaves the Panthers thinner at a position group where they couldn’t afford to lose a player.

Starting left guard Amini Silatolu sat out Sunday with a hamstring injury, forcing a “guard by committee” at that spot between Travelle Wharton and Chris Scott. When Williams went down, Scott and Jeff Byers rotated at right guard.

“I thought they held up and did the things they needed to do to give us a chance,” Rivera said of the line rotation. “We ran the ball very well, we averaged 5.2 yards a carry, so obviously we were doing some good things in the run blocking. Our quarterback got pressured a couple of times but for the most part they were able to be stout at the point and do some good things.”

The Panthers’ tentative plan for next week at Buffalo is to put Scott at right guard, his natural position Rivera said, and hope for Silatolu to return to left guard. Silatolu said he plans to practice Wednesday with no limitations.

Wharton would be Silatolu’s immediate backup. Carolina signed Wharton before the fourth exhibition game and hoped to ease him into live action while he worked on his conditioning. Rivera said Wharton had a limit of 10 snaps per half, and official game stats listed him as participating in 23 snaps.

Starting right tackle Byron Bell said he didn’t have a problem with the rotation going on beside him during the game.

“It’s kind of the same in practice,” Bell said. “Guys find a rhythm. I know I played next to Byers last year so I know his game. And then Chris comes in there, bigger guy, and you just have to adjust to the run. I adjusted to whoever was next to me.”

Since training camp, the Panthers have released veteran right guard Geoff Hangartner, last season’s starter, and placed 2012 fourth-round pick Edmund Kugbila on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Once Williams is designated for the injured reserve list, the Panthers will have an open spot on their 53-man roster. They could bring offensive lineman Garth Gerhart up from the practice squad – he signed last week – or bring in someone new.

“I think the thing we were looking forward to is having everyone healthy and really solidifying our depth,” Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil said. “If last season told you anything it’s that this game is unpredictable when it comes to injuries. I think a lot of times you look around the league, the really good teams you’re only as good as the back part of your team. That hurts us, losing Garry, but next man up.”

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

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