Panthers bring back Florence to help out secondary

Drayton Florence could go from playing football with his son in

the backyard to NFL starter this week.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Florence, who re-signed with

Carolina on Thursday, could be pressed into a starting role this

Sunday when the Panthers host Eli Manning and the New York Giants

due to injuries at the cornerback position.

Florence, a 10-year NFL veteran who has played in 143 career

games and started 99, attended training camp with the Panthers and

worked primarily with the starters during the preseason before

being released in final roster cuts.

Florence said he spent the past two weeks at his home in

Jacksonville, Fla., playing football with kids, taking them to swim

lessons and getting on his wife’s nerves.

”You have to be ready for everything,” Florence said. ”It was

getting a little frustrating sitting on the couch, so I’m glad they

thought enough of me to bring me back.”

Rivera said injuries to cornerbacks Josh Thomas (concussion) and

Josh Norman (thigh bruise) prompted the Panthers to re-sign

Florence. Although both Thomas and Norman returned to practice on a

limited basis Thursday, there is still plenty of concern over their

status for Sunday.

Two other Carolina cornerbacks – DJ Moore (knee) and James

Dockery (hand) – did not practice Thursday.

”The concern is not only if everyone is going to be cleared,

but if they’re going to be 100 percent,” Rivera said. ”As we look

at it, a concussion is scary thing and a cornerback with a deep

thigh bruise is a scary thing. We had to take a lot of things into

account and we think (signing Florence) was a prudent move. … We

were down to two healthy cornerbacks.”

Rivera said he has plenty of confidence in Florence, saying he

fit right in at practice Thursday.

”It was like he never left,” Rivera said. ”He did a nice job

understanding the concepts that we’re using for this game. It’s

interesting, but veteran guys like that do make the transition

easily.”

Florence has played for San Diego, Jacksonville, Buffalo and

Detroit and has 444 career tackles and 18 interceptions.

Florence said he’s happy to be back in Carolina, despite the way

things abruptly and unexpectedly ended three weeks ago. He called

it a humbling experience.

”Anytime you get fired from your job it’s tough, but it would

be a lot tougher to come back and be a disappointment,” Florence

said.

Rivera also seems to have settled on a starting strong

safety.

He ruled out Quintin Mikell for the game Sunday and said he

expects undrafted rookie Robert Lester from Alabama will get his

first NFL start against Manning. Lester was promoted from the

team’s practice squad to the 53-man roster earlier this week.

”We think Robert Lester is a young man that’s got an

opportunity,” Rivera said. ”He’s the next best available for

us.”

Mike Mitchell will start at free safety for Carolina and Captain

Munnerlyn will be the other starting cornerback.

NOTES: To make room on the roster for Florence, the Panthers

waived backup center Brian Folkerts. … Rivera said it is likely

rookie RB Kenjon Barner (foot) will be held out until after the bye

week.

AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org

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