Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson has 10 days to let his injured groin heal in the hopes he can play against his home-state team.
An MRI exam on Johnson’s right groin was negative, but his status for next week’s game against Atlanta remains uncertain, Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Friday.
“So far it’s positive. A lot of things will depend on how sore he is the next couple days,” Rivera said. “There is some swelling. But the key will be how he reacts to the treatment he gets the next few days.”
Johnson, who leads the team with six sacks, was injured with 1 minute, 8 seconds remaining in the Panthers’ 31-13 victory at Tampa Bay on Thursday. Johnson said it happened on an “awkward” play after the Buccaneers recovered an onside kick to put the Panthers’ defense back on the field.
Johnson, a Georgia native, said after the game he expects to play against the Falcons.
“The Atlanta game is a very personal game for him,” Rivera said. “Knowing him he will do everything he can because he loves playing Atlanta.”
Rivera gave players the weekend off, but Johnson will be required to stay in Charlotte for treatment.
Johnson has led the Panthers in sacks every season since 2010 after Julius Peppers signed with the Bears.
Rivera said he wasn’t sure whether the loose turf at Raymond James Stadium contributed to Johnson’s injury.
“I did see a lot of dirt flying up, and that’s usually not a good sign,” Rivera said. “That means a lot of guys were slipping and we had quite a few missed tackles because of it.”
Backfield in motion: The training staff also will monitor running back DeAngelo Williams, who sustained a bruised quadriceps in the second half against the Bucs. Based on his own experience with quad injuries, Rivera said he thinks Williams will be able to play against Atlanta.
“As long as you can keep it loose and keep yourself warm and there’s not a lot of swelling, he’ll be ready to play,” said Rivera, a former Chicago Bears linebacker. “And knowing DeAngelo, he’ll want to play.”
Rivera said Williams wanted to return to the game Thursday, but trainers had him begin icing his leg instead.
Williams, the team’s leading rusher, had a season-low eight carries for 43 yards against the Bucs as the Panthers sought to get fullback Mike Tolbert involved early. Rivera said the use of Tolbert on play-action passes helped slow the Bucs’ pass rush.
But Rivera said Williams remains the team’s featured back, even with Jonathan Stewart close to returning from the physically-unable-to-perform list. Stewart, who had offseason surgeries on both ankles, began practicing last week and is hoping to be activated for the Falcons’ game.
The Panthers have two weeks to add Stewart to the active roster or he’ll remain on the PUP list the rest of the season.
“We’ll see how it goes. We’ve got two weeks to go,” Rivera said. “Monday (at practice) is a big day.”
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