Panthers' Hardy misses second practice but Rivera confident he'll play Sunday

jjones@charlotteobserver.comOctober 3, 2013 

Greg Hardy has battled an illness this week that has caused him to miss practices on Wednesday and Thursday. But don’t expect him to miss the game on Sunday.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he expects his defensive end to return to the practice field Friday and be ready to go when the Panthers travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals.

“Greg Hardy was ill today, a carryover from yesterday but he did see the doctor. Good report,” Rivera said Thursday. “They just want him to get a little bit of rest and I do expect him back (Friday) morning. So I do look forward to seeing Greg.”

Hardy is coming off a three-sack performance against the Giants in Week 3 that earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. His presence along the line will be needed with the likely absence of defensive tackle Dwan Edwards.

Edwards did not participate in practice again Thursday as he nurses a hamstring injury that has plagued him since training camp. Rivera said Edwards probably would not play Sunday.

Rookie defensive tackle Kawann Short also missed practice Thursday with an ankle injury. Short rolled his ankle during practice Wednesday, but Rivera was hopeful that he would be a participant in Friday’s practice and be ready for Sunday.

Safety coverage: Undrafted rookie Robert Lester will get his second consecutive start at strong safety Sunday with Quintin Mikell’s status in doubt with an ankle injury.

Lester had an interception and recovered a fumble in his first career game in Week 3 against the Giants. He will start along with free safety Mike Mitchell, who moved from strong safety following the season-ending Achilles injury to Charles Godfrey.

“They’ve done a nice job, the both of them,” Rivera said. “We’ve really done a lot of focus and concentration on them as far as their reps, their reps together, their reps with (reserve safety) Colin Jones out there, and making sure that they’re repping with all the different combination of corners.”

Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Thomas will start at the cornerback positions, and veteran Drayton Florence will get playing time at cornerback as well. It’s unclear how Carolina will use Josh Norman and Melvin White this week.

“We went from last week having only seven guys available to now we’ve got nine guys available and we’ve got some tough decisions as to who’s up and who’s not,” Rivera said.

Ready Chase: Linebacker Chase Blackburn said he’s enjoyed the extra looks he’s gotten with the first team at weakside linebacker, and it’s possible he gets his second consecutive start at the position this week.

“I love being out on defense, no doubt about it, especially after getting as much playing time as I have the last couple of years,” said Blackburn, who played eight seasons with the Giants. “Getting out on the field and getting back out there has obviously been great.”

Rivera said this week Blackburn leads Beason for the starting spot at weakside linebacker this week, but Rivera has yet to name a starter for the Cardinals game.

Think pink: Panthers were greeted at their lockers after practice Thursday with pink gloves and cleats that they’ll be able to wear this month.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the NFL allows players to wear pink gloves and cleats to help raise awareness for the cause.

Running back DeAngelo Williams was an early proponent of the movement. His mother is a survivor, but four of his aunts have died from the disease. He’s featured in a 5-hour Energy Drink commercial this month promoting a raspberry drink that supports “living beyond breast cancer.”

“It’s huge to have this platform to wear pink and to display it on national TV,” Williams said. “You never know who you will affect because so many people watch this game. Whether it’s myself or you or a friend of yours, you’re watching football and someone’s wife, girlfriend or sister or mother walks by and says, ‘Why are those guys wearing pink?’ or think it’s funny. I’m like, ‘It’s breast cancer awareness month.’ They’re like, ‘I’ll go get tested.’ And they go get tested.”

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

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