Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei left Monday’s practice in a cart with what the team called a “stress reaction” in his surgically repaired right foot.
In a statement released Monday evening, Panthers head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion said the team plans to take a cautious approach and will re-evaluate Lotulelei “in a few weeks.”
With that timeline, Lotulelei’s availability for the exhibition season is in question.
Lotulelei, the Panthers’ first-round pick in 2013, came up limping after a play and motioned for the training staff. Panthers team doctor Robert Anderson, who performed Lotulelei’s surgery in January, recommended taking Lotulelei to the training room for further evaluation.
Lotulelei was still limping about an hour after practice, with a walking boot on his foot.
He said he wasn’t sure of the severity of the injury. When asked what the medical staff told him, Lotulelei said, “They didn’t tell me much.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera had hoped Lotulelei was dealing with soreness rather than re-injury.
Lotulelei broke his foot during a practice before the Panthers’ divisional round game at Seattle. He participated in OTAs and minicamp during the spring without any apparent setbacks.
Lotulelei’s injury left the Panthers without both of their young defensive tackles. Kawann Short, who has been sidelined with back spasms, is scheduled to be re-evaluated Tuesday in Charlotte during the team’s off day.
Rivera said an MRI on Short’s lower back revealed no damage.
The team re-signed veteran defensive tackles Dwan Edwards and Colin Cole during the offseason. The Panthers have used a four-man rotation at the position the last two seasons.
Thomas Davis, 5 other vets get Monday’s practice off
Outside linebacker Thomas Davis and five other Panthers veterans picked a good day to get a break from practice.
With a heat index of 109 degrees during the two-hour-plus morning sessions, the Panthers scheduled several extra water breaks, one of which was extended by five minutes.
The other players who had the day off were receiver Jerricho Cotchery, center Ryan Kalil, running back Jonathan Stewart, safety Roman Harper and defensive tackle Dwan Edwards.
The Panthers used Kalil’s absence as an opportunity to try different combinations up front.
Right tackle Mike Remmers took snaps at center, backup guard Amini Silatolu worked at left tackle and rookie right tack Daryl Williams got his first reps with the first team.
As he’s said about the receivers, Panthers coach Ron Rivera believes there is more competition along the offensive line than in previous seasons.
“I think it’s going to be one of the more competitive groups we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “I’m excited about that.”
Rivera back at practice attending brother’s funeral
Panthers coach Ron Rivera thanked the organization and fans for their support during the two days he was gone to attend his brother’s funeral in Nevada. Mickey Rivera died last week after a nearly two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
Rivera said he kept up with the team during the two days he was gone in part by following reporters’ Twitter posts.
“I followed you guys. So I heard everything from when Ted Ginn went crashing through the gate to the unfortunate news on (injured receiver) Stephen (Hill),” said Rivera, whose Twitter handle is @RiverboatRonHC. “Then (Sunday) I disagree with you guys, I don’t think Michael Oher got ran by.”
Rivera also watched practice video on his iPad and stayed in close contact with general manager Dave Gettleman, assistant GM Brandon Beane and assistant head coach Steve Wilks, who ran practices in Rivera’s absence.
Said Rivera: “It wasn’t as if I was completely gone.”
▪ Cam Newton wasn’t loving the lack of protection early in the team passing period. After being sacked and twice scrambling in the first few plays, Newton yelled his disapproval as he ran out of bounds after one of the scrambles.
▪ A day after forcing two fumbles, former Bears cornerback Charles Tillman came down with a nice interception on a Newton pass that Josh Norman tipped away from Devin Funchess. Tillman’s been ball-hawking for 12 years, so why would his first Panthers camp be any different?
▪ Strong safety Kurt Coleman filled hard in run support during an inside run drill, so much so that coaches reminded not to take the ball-carrier to the ground. Coleman has been working with the first team, with Roman Harper sliding to free safety.
▪ By the time the third-teamers squared off in inside run, no one bothered to mention the no-tackling policy. Ask undrafted rookie Brandon Wegher, who was the back absorbing most of the hits.
▪ Backup tackle Martin Wallace was having a good day until late in team drills when safety Marcus Ball came on a blitz and sent Wallace to the ground.
▪ Kelvin Benjamin didn’t extend his arms far enough for a Newton pass over the middle that he should have caught. His best catch came after Derek Anderson audibled to a different route. Benjamin snagged the pass along the sideline, but might not have gotten both feet inbounds.
▪ Someone briefly flew a drone over the length of the practice field before it disappeared into the skies. But not before there were several Patriots and Bill Belichick jokes overheard among media members.
Getting to know ...
Cornerback Teddy Williams
College: Texas-San Antonio.
NFL experience: Fourth year.
The scoop: Williams did not play football, but ran track in college. He was a four-time All-American as a sprinter who ran the 100-meter dash in 9.9 seconds at a 2009 meet, the fastest time in the world at that point that year. Williams has bounced around six teams, including the Panthers, and finished last season in Jacksonville. Carolina signed him to be a special teams mainstay. If he makes the team, it will because of his special teams skills.
Twitter handle: N/A
3 questions with ...
OL Amini Silatolu
Q. You worked at left tackle Monday. You think there’s an opportunity there?
A. I’m just moving around, trying to get better at different positions. Ryan (Kalil) had a vet day today, so that’s why I had to play some left tackle. Mike Remmers was at center, and Nate (Chandler) at right tackle.
Q. Do you think that versatility could help you?
A. Yeah, I’m trying to be versatile this year, see if I can play left guard, right guard, tackle. Just a little bit of everything.
Q. You were a left tackle in college (at Midwestern State). Is it like getting back on a bike? Does it come back pretty quickly?
A. It comes back pretty quick. I’ve got to get a little warm-up into it, take some sets in individuals and then I’m right back in it.