Over the last few years fans of the Carolina Panthers are no strangers to injuries. Whether star players at vital positions like Jon Beason and Thomas Davis, or lesser known quantities like Mike Goodson and Garry Williams-- the organization has become accustomed to dealing with injuries as they happen; plugging and playing undeveloped players to try and stop the bleeding.
The 2012 team has a very different problem, one that could shape the way the final 53 pans out, thankfully it's a good problem to have. As it stands there are a cadre of players who are young, hungry and fighting for a job. The blanket approach the Panthers took to signing every UDFA under the sun has resulted in logjams at many positions for backup spots and rotational jobs.
There are four players right now who are fighting injury, and unless they are able to shake the bug soon we could see them replaced in Spartanburg out of sheer attrition; what's more surprising is that three of these players were at ont time starters.
We'll look at how injury could shape the final fifty-three... after the jump
UPDATE: According to Gary Barndige (via Twitter) reports of his injury and limping off the field were erroneous. This is fantastic news for the Carolina Panthers offense. While I don't edit articles after the fact, this addendum should supersede the content of this article.
Where do we begin with the Panthers' right tackle? Another year, another season started in sweats rather than uniform. It's easy to poke fun at a player who has spent more time on the sideline than he has the field, but the fact is that Otah is a difference maker when he's able to play. However, like all things it might be time to pull the plug on him and move on. It seem the coaching staff have a lot of faith in Byron Bell, and as it stands he's been alone in taking 1st team RT reps. There's little doubt that Bell isn't a long-term answer, but it wouldn't be surprising if the Panthers cut their losses with Otah in order to favor consistency.
There couldn't have been a worse time for a nice guy to get bit by the injury bug. If Barnidge is able to return to the lineup quickly then it's no harm, no foul-- however, if this lingers into training camp and through Spartanburg it could get very easy for Barnidge to be supplanted by one of the other TEs on the roster. If the Panthers can motivate Nelson Rosario, or decide to try Lamont Bryant at TE it could be the death knell for Barnidge's future on the roster if he's unable to get healthy quickly.
Yesterday David Gettis pulled up lame on his first route of the day, a symbol his ACL still hasn't fully repaired. The hardest thing when returning from such an injury isn't the physical difficulty, but the mental barrier where you're willing to plant, push and run as hard on that repaired ACL as you did prior to injury. With so many receivers stepping up and showing their chops, this is another situation where a good player could get passed over if he's not able to take to the field.
Finally, the player I hate to include in this article. Unfortunately there's a point where precaution falls off, and reality takes over. I'm sure the Panthers are just playing it safe with TD, but with Jon Beason and Luke Kuechly already working well together there is a chance the Panthers could move on; provided TD can't return to the field soon.
Obviously all of these four scenarios would be terrible. Nobody wants to see any of these guys lose their job, especially to something like injury. However, all four will need to try and get back on the field ASAP, lest Carolina decides to move on with the guys who can play now, even if they're less talented.