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Panthers' Gamble might have suffered season-ending injury

Associated Press

10/19/2012 2:54:47 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Panthers coach Ron Rivera said starting cornerback Chris Gamble will have an MRI on his right shoulder to determine if he has a torn labrum, the same injury that sent offensive lineman Mike Pollak to injured reserve earlier this season.

Gamble has been ruled out for Sunday's game against Dallas and Rivera is "concerned" he may end up on injured reserve.

"Once he gets the exam and goes through all that we'll determine" if he goes on IR, Rivera said. "Probably the soonest we'll know is Monday."

As if the Panthers (1-4) need any more problems, Rivera also said three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Jon Beason is "very doubtful" for the Cowboys game because of a lingering knee issue and that rookie Luke Kuechly will make his second start in the middle.

Beason also sat out Carolina's 16-12 loss to Seattle prior to the bye week.

Kuechly, the team's first-round draft pick this year, played well in his absence with 11 tackles and one interception. That also means Thomas Davis will start at weak side linebacker.

"Jon Beason did very, very limited stuff today, so he's very doubtful," Rivera said. "Luke practiced inside and that looks like the direction we'll have to head."

When he's played Beason has struggled with knee and shoulder problems which affected his strength and ability to tackle. In a Week 3 game against the Near York Giants, running back Andre Brown bounced off a Beason shoulder tackle and kept on going.

Meanwhile, Kuechly said he's feeling comfortable in the middle.

Kuechly played middle linebacker at Boston College and led the nation in tackles twice.

He started the first four games at weak side linebacker for the Panthers. Rivera said earlier in the season the coaching staff did not want to continue to move him from one linebacker position to the other so as to prevent him from feeling overwhelmed.

"It comes back to an extent," Kuechly said of returning to middle linebacker. "There's still some new things we do on our defence. There are a couple of differences, but for the most part it's similar to what I was used to."

Rivera said Gamble, who has started 117 games in nine seasons, first injured the shoulder against Atlanta on Sept. 30. He sat out Carolina's game against Seattle the following week. He reinjured it in practice this week.

Rivera called Gamble one of the most underrated cornerbacks in the league.

While Carolina's defence ranks 19th in the league against the pass, Gamble has been fairly consistent with the exception of the Giants game.

He's been targeted 14 times and allowed eight catches for 75 yards with two pass breakups, according to STATS LLC. Six of those passes allowed came in a 36-7 loss to the Giants.

Captain Munnerlyn will start in Gamble's spot opposite rookie Josh Norman. In nickel situations, Munnerlyn will slide to the slot and cornerback Josh Thomas will man the outside.