Carolina Panthers fighting to effectively game-plan amid Covid-19 surge
The Carolina Panthers (5-10) have struggled to put together a winning formula for the second year in a row. Injuries and erratic decision making have taken their toll on both sides of the ball. Critics speculate that the Matt Rhule era will be short lived. Others believe David Tepper will honor his statements about being patient and working through the process and allow Rhule to continue building a team that will hopefully, in the near future, get into the playoffs - an accomplishment that hasn't happened for the Panthers since 2017.
Compounding the pain of this year's struggle is the fight to keep players free from Covid-19. The illusive virus is surging through the NFL as well as the rest of the country and causing problems for coaches who are trying to prepare for opponents because many don't know who'll they face with regard to opposing personnel.
Monday saw 22 members of the New Orleans Saints test positive and enter the safety protocol. The Panthers had more than eleven to their list. The Panthers and Saints are set to faceoff in their secong meeting this year but likely with a heavily reduce list of names most familiar to fans. Haason Reddick was added to the list today of players effected by Covid-19. Now both of Carolina's leading pass rushers are currently unavailable but that could change with the new rules. For Rhule, it is a daunting task. "It's certainly a concern right now," Rhules said.
"Scott (Fitterer) and his staff have been working all day to make sure we have every position covered."
On Wednesday, the offense and defense could not practice against each other because there were not enough players available. As frustrating as it can be, Rhule says that it's what you have to deal with and pointed out that New Orleans has a similar issue.
CAROLINA PANTHERS COVI-19 RESERVE LISTING
Brian Burns DE #53
Marquis Haynes Sr. DE #98
Phil Hoskins DT #71
Rashaan Melvin CB #29
Daviyon Nixon DT #94
Matt Paradis C #61
Haason Reddick LB #43
S. Tecklenburg C #68
Shaq Thompson LB #7
PJ Walker QB #6
Brandon Zylstra WR #16
The new NFL policy has been criticized by some players because they don't feel it goes far enough to adequately protect them. The latest update says that players can return within five days of a test provided they have two negative tests within that period and are not symptomatic.
One bright sport for the Panthers is that both Pat Elflein and Dennis Daley are both back in the lineup and ready for action on Sunday. The other positive development is that with so many players either injured or on the Covid-19 Reserve listing, there is an opportunity to see players who haven't had many opportunities get a real-time chance to showcase their skills.
The Panthers led by starting quarterback Sam Darnold will face-off against the Saints on Sunday, Jan. 2 at the Caesars Super Dome in New Orleans at 4:00 p.m. ET.