We're all aware of the injury history that has plagued RT Jeff Otah, so I'm not going to rehash it here. We all know the guy has only played in four games over the past two seasons, and in his four-year career the most games he's played in a season is 13.
The decision of whether or not to keep him around would be much easier if he weren't such a dominant force in run protection - something the Panthers heavily rely on given the importance of DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to the offense - but the fact that he's so good when he's on the field makes the decision of whether or not to add him to the final 53 man roster a difficult one for Ron Rivera.
Or so we thought.
Earlier today on The Fan, Rivera said that the team is fully prepared to move on without the massive lineman. Apparently, Rivera values availability over talent, and he can't exactly be blamed for feeling this way when it's a given fact that 11 men have to be on the field at all times. As a coach you want someone who can be depended on, and if a guy can't be counted on to play week in and week out, you have to eventually cut your losses.
It appears that Rivera is at the point where he's prepared to cut those losses if Otah can't get on the field during training camp this year. Whether this is just another motivational tool or a way to inspire backup RT Byron Bell to continue improving from his rookie campaign isn't absolutely known, but when Rivera says things like he said today on The Fan, it doesn't look good for Otah.
Below is a
paraphrased statement direct quote (updated at 5:44PM) from Rivera on Otah's role with the team going forward (hat tip to jamiedk):
If Jeff’s back, great. If he’s not, hey, we’re moving on. The ball’s in his court. Okay? He’s gone through his rehab program. He’s seen Dr. Andrews. Dr. Andrews basically gave him the workout program. Basically said, ‘You know, your MRI's are good. Your x-rays are good. You know, you look good.’ Now it’s time to get back out on the football field. So we’ll see. Now it’s up to Jeff. The ball’s in his court. We expect him to be ready to go. We expect him to be on the football field and compete. But at the same time, we’ve got four guys that can play the tackle position for us. We’ve got two primary starters and we’ve got two solid backups and we feel very comfortable. He’s ready to go? Hey, more power to him, and good things for us, because again, I do agree with you. He can be a difference-maker, and he can help us as far as this offensive line is concerned.
To answer the question posed in the title of this story: yes, I'd say that Otah has reached the end of Rivera's patience. If I were him (Otah), I'd do everything within my power to make sure I was on that field during training camp, or else he may find himself in the unemployment line. Given his injury history over such a short career, that's not a place he really wants to be.
What do you think Panthers fans? Is this the end of the road for Otah? Fire away with your thoughts!