WR David Gettis is done for the season after tearing the ACL in his left knee. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Carolina Panthers starting wide receiver David Gettis tore the ACL in his left knee and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.
"It's disappointing because the young man had a good last few days and has a bright future in this league," coach Ron Rivera said following Thursday night’s practice. "Whatever it entails, he'll get it right and we'll have him ready to go when he's ready."
Gettis injured his knee Wednesday night and was carted off the field after practice. He had an MRI on Thursday in Charlotte and it revealed the worse.
He injured the knee while attempting to run a route, Rivera said.
"It was down in the red zone and he was releasing and he got jammed," Rivera said. "His foot got caught and slipped in a bad direction. It's disappointing. Like I said, the young man was having a really good camp."
Earlier in the night, the Panthers placed defensive tackle Ron Edwards on injured reserve and replaced him with free agent defensive tackle DelJuan Robinson, who played 27 games with three starts in three seasons with the Houston Texans.
Edwards, who received a three-year, $8.5 million contract extension, tore his triceps in his first practice with the team Aug. 4. It was expected at the time the Panthers would place him on injured reserve.
Gettis had battled back to get on the field after missing portions of training camp with a hamstring injury.
With Gettis out of the lineup, the Panthers are expected to turn to Brandon LaFell, a third-round pick in 2010, to compete with Legedu Naanee, a free agent pickup from San Diego who is familiar with the team’s offense.
A sixth-round pick from Baylor, Gettis started 15 games last season as a rookie and caught 37 passes and had three touchdowns.
NUMBERS GAME: When asked how many receivers and tight ends the Panthers will keep on this year’s roster Rivera was non-committal, saying it's way too early to know.
“The biggest thing we've got to look at, obviously, is how that total number impacts the other positions," Rivera said. "But we've got a good number of tight ends that can help us. We've got a couple of young guys that we want to think about trying to keep around and the same thing at wide receiver. A lot of it depends on what comes out with David (Gettis) today as well, and then we'll see from there.”
Rivera said it’s conceivable the Panthers could keep four tight ends – Greg Olsen, Jeremy Shockey, Ben Hartsock and Gary Barnidge are the obvious choices – on the 53-man roster.
“It's conceivable we could keep four tight ends (or) we could keep three,” Rivera said. “The same thing with wide receiver - we could keep five, six or seven. You've got to look at all those possibilities. It's a good question to have, especially for us in this offensive system.”
NINJA TURTLE RUNNING BACKS: While shopping for a present for a family member, Tyrell Sutton came across four Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toboggans and purchased them for the team’s running backs.
As Sutton explains it, each one of Carolina's running backs matches the personality of the four famous Hollywood turtles.
He said DeAngelo Williams received the Leonardo colored hat, Jonathan Stewart was given the Donatello hat, Mike Goodson got the Michelangelo hat and he kept the Raphael hat.
“DeAngelo is the leader because he’s the oldest,” Sutton said. “Goody is the funny one like Michelangelo. I’m the loner, the smart-alecky one. Stew is kind of like the geek, because he’s always on Ustream and that kind of stuff. So he’s the technological one. It kind of fits our personalities.”
Sutton also referred to running backs coach John Settle as their leader “Splinter,” although he couldn’t find him a costume.
All kidding aside, Sutton believes Carolina’s running backs are the deepest and most talented in the NFL.
“We have a lot of guys who can step in at any given time and not miss a beat,” Sutton said. “We are the deepest group and the team here knows that so they’re trying to keep us intact as long as possible.”
PILARES CATCHING ON: Rookie Kealoha Pilares, the team’s fifth-round draft pick, is still a very raw talent at wide receiver but he’s showing solid progress with each passing practice. He’s primarily playing in the slot, but has also lined up out wide. He’s also willing to play punt returner and gunner, things he did well at the University of Hawaii.
"In this league, you just try to get on the field any way possible," Pilares said. "I'm trying to learn as many positions as I can to be ready at any time, just be ready when my name is called."
Pilares is still raw as a receiver given he played two seasons at running back before moving to slot receiver while at Hawaii. He caught 88 passes for 1,306 yards and 15 touchdowns last season and also returned kicks and punts for the Warriors.
Many of those yards came after the catch.
"Catching the ball and making plays after that – that's strength of my game," Pilares said. "There is an opportunity to step in. I'm just trying to learn the playbook and see where it takes me."
Rivera said Pilares has caught his eye a few times.
“There’s a quickness about him, and he's got good football sense and savvy,” Rivera said. “Also, he's a guy that we're looking to potentially contribute on special teams.”
NORWOOD READY FOR NEW ROLE: Eric Norwood said he feels much more comfortable playing defensive than linebacker because it’s what he’s been doing most of his life.
Nobody questions Norwood’s pass-rush ability – he set a University of South Carolina record with 29 career sacks – but the big question is how, at 258 pounds, he’ll hold up at the point of attack against the run.
“I’m trying to use good technique,” Norwood said. “I’m only 6-foot-1, so it gives me good leverage against those 6-foot-6 linemen. And weight-wise I think I can hold up pretty good.”
When asked if he feels like he can be an every-down player rather than just a pass rusher, Norwood said, “Definitely. Without a question.”
BROWN READY TO ATTACK: Norwood replaced Everette Brown with the first team several days ago, but that doesn’t mean Brown is giving up the fight.
Brown believes his quick first step has returned.
“I trained a lot in the offseason and I’m flying around probably faster than I ever have,” Brown said.
Brown said he’s also prepared to be an every-down defensive end and doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as a finesse pass rusher.
CORNERBACK QUESTIONS: One of the bigger concerns on the roster is the No. 2 cornerback spot.
Rivera is excited about starter Chris Gamble, but said someone has to step up and take other spot. Captain Munnerlyn has started some in the league, but it remains unclear if the Panthers will trust him with a starting spot. There's still a chance the Panthers could look to upgrade this position after other teams make some roster moves.
“What we're looking for is another guy to step up and be our number two guy,” Rivera said. “Captain (Munnerlyn) has come in and shown us that he has those kinds of abilities. He's a little man but he's a little man that plays big, and I think that's a huge plus for us. So I'm excited about that as well. Then we've got a group of guys that need to distinguish themselves. Some veteran guys that have played (before), they've got to distinguish themselves.”
Rivera said he’s been pleasantly surprised with undrafted rookie Kendric Burney from North Carolina.
“I don't want to say he has been a surprise, because we've always felt he had the ability, but we had some questions on him and he is answering those questions very well,” Rivera said. “It's going to shape up to be a very exciting battle.”
Rivera said he’s anxious to see fourth-round pick Brandon Hogan on the field, although he said it’s unclear when he’ll return from a torn ACL he suffered last December. Sources said earlier in training camp said there's a chance Hogan may not play at all this season.
RICHARDSON HONORED: Panthers owner and Wofford College graduate Jerry Richardson will have his No. 51 jersey retied during a ceremony on Oct. 29 at Gibbs Stadium when the Terriers face Elon College.
His number will be just the second ever retired by his alma mater's football program.
Richardson was an Associated Press Little All-America selection in 1957 and ‘58 and still holds school records for most touchdown receptions in a career (21) while his 241 yards receiving against Newberry in 1956 still stands as a single-game record. As a senior in 1958, he scored 72 points on nine touchdowns, 12 extra points and two field goals.