The bye week for any NFL franchise is supposed to be a time for players to regroup and relax before continuing down the brutal road of what can be a long stretch of remaining games.
For the Carolina Panthers it turned out to be a time to sort through all of their injuries; injuries on both sides of the football that will be nearly impossible to overcome.
First, it was announced during the team’s week off that Pro-Bowl center and team leader Ryan Kalil would be placed on injured reserve because of a Lisfranc injury he suffered during Carolina’s week five loss to the Seattle Seahawks. An injury that now forces right guard and former center Geoff Hangartner over to play his old position. A position change that will force both quarterback Cam Newton and Hangartner to adjust mentally prior to Carolina’s week seven showdown with the Dallas Cowboys.
Kalil’s season ending injury was just the first wave of bad news for the Panthers during these last two weeks.
The Panthers’ defense took a huge hit when it was reported that their franchise interception leader and most productive defender, cornerback Chris Gamble could also be on the mend for the remainder of 2012, due to a shoulder injury he sustained in Carolina’s week four loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
Gamble sat out in week five and didn’t return to practice until this past Wednesday. Everything was going smoothly according to Panthers head coach Ron Rivera, until Gamble re-aggravated the same shoulder that kept him sidelined for two weeks while participating in defensive drills during the team’s Wednesday practice.
Rivera stating in a report from the Charlotte Observer, “The week off was great until he took a shot, and it’s been downhill ever since.”
It’s probably safe to say the bye week has gone nowhere but downhill following news of two gigantic injuries to both Kalil and Gamble. Gamble means so much to Carolina’s secondary, not only because he’s a talented player, but because he too is a leader on the field.
Gamble is set to have an MRI this weekend and all assumptions are that his season is likely over.
A costly blow for Carolina’s defense and one that won’t improve anytime soon because linebacker Jon Beason is also battling a knee injury that hasn’t allowed him to return to practice this week and is listed as “doubtful” for this Sunday’s game.
The bright spot though, is rookie linebacker Luke Kuechly will get yet another start at the middle linebacker position. A spot he is comfortable with and one he thrived in during week five, leading the Panthers in tackles.
Going forward without Gamble and for this week Beason will be tough. The Panthers are 1-4 and a long brutal road of games lies before them. They are now entrenched in a season that can go one of either two ways this Sunday. A loss could be an unraveling or a win could spark an emotional turnaround. The stage is set.
Robert Kester, Carolina Panthers Columnist. Contact @robertkester1.