The Panthers’ last-second loss to Buffalo last weekend is one everybody affiliated with the organization would like to forget.
Veteran linebacker Jon Beason said that’s not going to happen.
“This one you’ll remember throughout the duration of a career. You don’t really have the words to express what went on,” Beason said Wednesday. “You go back and watch the tape and look at the opportunities you had to affect the game. At the end of the day, we didn’t get that done. We know we should have won the game, but we didn’t.”
The film review was particularly rough for Beason, who is trying to play through pain in his right knee following microfracture surgery last fall. Beason had a difficult day in pass coverage and missed a few tackles in the Bills’ 24-23 victory.
“I put the onus on me. Those are plays that I want back. But I lost out on them,” Beason said. “You play this game long enough, you’re going to get beat. You transition to the next play, and hopefully you make a big one and make up for it.”
With a spate of the injuries in the secondary, the Panthers were unable to use their nickel package for a portion of the third quarter. That left Beason matched up against Bills wideout Stevie Johnson.
Johnson beat Beason on an inside move and got free for a 45-yard reception to the Panthers’ 10, setting up a touchdown. Normally, Beason would have been on the sideline and the Panthers would have had a defensive back on Johnson.
Johnson’s catch was one of five that Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel completed – in five attempts – throwing to receivers covered by Beason, according to Pro Football Focus. The completions went for 112 yards, including 87 yards after the catch.
Johnson gained 35 yards after his catch against Beason.
“People can look into stats all they want to,” Beason said. “I know I’ve got to play better, and that’s what it boils down to.”
Beason blamed poor technique and biting on play fakes for some of his coverage issues. But he also conceded his knee is giving him problems.
Beason said in July that some players who undergo microfracture surgery are never pain-free again. The Panthers are trying to manage Beason’s pain as he builds the strength in his knee.
After missing all of training camp and half of the exhibition schedule, Beason has been given a day off each of the past two weeks following an installation practice.
“I think again you’ve got to continue to work to get in football shape,” Carolina coach Ron Rivera said. “We’re through his third real week of it. So I think he’s going to continue to get better and stronger, so I expect his play to get better and better.”
“You have your good days, you have your bad days,” Beason said. “When you pound on it, obviously you have that little setback. You take a day off, and you feel better. So everything’s kind of geared toward feeling better on Sundays.”
Early in his career, the Panthers had no better tackler than Beason, who became the first rookie in club history to lead the team in tackles. Beason’s first four seasons produced the top four single-season tackle totals in team history.
But injuries have taken a toll the past two years. A torn Achilles in the 2011 opener ended Beason’s season, and he made it through four games last year before going down with the knee injury.
With Beason out, Luke Kuechly led a defensive resurgence from Beason’s former middle linebacker spot.
Beason, 28, agreed to a $4.25 million pay cut this year in a restructured deal, but can recoup $1.75 million if he’s active for all 16 games. Beason’s new contract voids after this season, meaning this could be his final year in Carolina.
But Beason’s current focus is strengthening his knee and helping the Panthers win a game.
“It’s a process. I haven’t been able to feel great out there. But I’ve been good enough to be effective,” Beason said. “That’s the thought process going into it. The mental edge helps me out big-time, and I’m feeling a lot better today than I have this whole offseason.”
Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott said if Beason struggles, it won’t be from a lack of effort – a feeling echoed by cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
“I know it’s frustrating for Beas. He wants to be out there every play,” Munnerlyn said. “He’s a warrior, man. He works harder than anybody I know.”
Beason hopes his offseason work and the precautions he’s taking during the week help him regain his old form.
“I don’t expect to show up on Sunday and just be great. I know that the way to be great is to prepare – the way you train, the way you practice, the preparation in the film room,” he said. “But every time I go out there, every rep I get, I know it’s building toward getting back to who I know I can be.”
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