Panthers hope Wharton helps struggling O-line
Travelle Wharton could go from late-summer acquisition to
opening day starter for the Carolina Panthers.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Monday last year’s starting left
guard Amini Silatolu ”more than likely” will miss the Sept. 8
regular-season opener with a hamstring injury, opening an
opportunity for Wharton to step in and start at his old
The 32-year-old Wharton, who started 99 games for the Panthers
from 2004-11, re-signed with his former team on Sunday after
injuries left the offensive line depleted.
”We’ve had a couple of guys get nicked up and it’s important to
have a veteran guy around,” Rivera said. ”We went out and got a
guy that knows our system and knows the players. I think that’s
Silatolu injured his hamstring in last week’s win over the
Ravens, while rookie draft pick Edmund Kugbila hasn’t been able to
stay on the field also because of a hamstring injury.
Earlier in the preseason, Carolina lost backup right tackle
Bruce Campbell to a season-ending shoulder injury.
Wharton brings versatility and depth.
The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Wharton can play both guard and tackle
positions. He played mostly at left guard during his tenure in
Carolina and returned there for Monday’s practice.
Wharton said he doesn’t care where he plays – he’s just happy to
be back on the field.
He said he had several offers from other NFL teams, but chose
Carolina so he could remain at home with his family.
He still lives in the same Charlotte neighborhood as close fiend
Jordan Gross, the team’s starting left tackle. For years the two
men carpooled to work and they resumed that tradition on
”It’s great, I only have to pay for half of the gas,” Gross
Wharton said he could barely sleep Sunday night in anticipation
of getting back on the field.
He was cut by Carolina after the 2011 season because he had a
large salary cap number. He signed a free agent contract last
spring with the Cincinnati Bengals.
However, he never played a regular season game for the Bengals,
tearing the ACL in his right knee in the third play of the
preseason. He was placed on injured reserve and the Bengals
terminated his contract in July.
Wharton said the terminology of the Panthers offense has changed
a little since 2011, but he said it’s all coming back to him.
”The guys are helping me out, but there are things I’m
remembering,” Wharton said. ”I’m trying to get it down. I don’t
want to mess up. You don’t want to be that guy to mess it up. I’m
going to go back (in the film room) and study some more, go home
and study some more and wake up tomorrow and study some more.”
Said Gross: ”Travelle is a guy you can bring in who knows the
offense. He was already in and out with the first group today, so
that to me was pretty impressive.”
Carolina’s offensive line could use some help.
They’ve been the subject of criticism this preseason given the
first-team offense has only scored one touchdown and the injuries
haven’t helped matters.
But Rivera doesn’t think Carolina’s offensive line will be its
”I’m very pleased with them,” Rivera said. ”We’ve had
opportunities. If we correct those things and make those better we
be as explosive as we’ve been.”
Gross agrees with his coach.
”It’s not like I’m flipping out about it,” Gross said. ”We
played the Ravens last week and it had the feel of a real game.
It’s not like we were playing a high school team. So we’ve played
Baltimore and Philadelphia, which has a good defense. I think
that’s a pretty good warm-up for Seattle.”
Online: AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org
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