Max Henson Staff Writer
CHARLOTTE – After Sunday’s 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, the Panthers could look to make a personnel change, possibly at the free safety position where Haruki Nakamura admittedly struggled.
“We are evaluating all positions, we really are,” head coach Rivera said. “(Haruki) had a tough day obviously, on a couple plays. But he also made a couple plays – big interception down in the red zone, big knock away down in the red zone, and a couple nice tackles coming up.
“It’s a matter of finishing the evaluation process. I’m not going to make a knee-jerk response to something.”
Defensive coordinator Sean McDermott affirmed his belief in Nakamura and insisted the first-year Panther will improve.
“He’s a hard worker and he’s a winner,” McDermott said. “I haven’t lost confidence in him and I don’t believe anybody in that room has lost confidence in him. I have a lot of respect for how he goes about his business.
“We win as a team and we lose as team,” McDermott added. “I know (Haruki) took some of it on himself, and that’s just the kind of person he is.”
Rivera said Sherrod Martin will see extended reps in practice this week to allow the coaching staff to best evaluate their options.
“If we are going to evaluate, we have to evaluate the different combinations and what the possibilities can be,” Rivera said. “When you look at what happened in training camp, I didn’t think Sherrod did a bad job. We’ll continue to evaluate and we’ve got until Sunday to make a decision.”
Martin started all 16 games at free safety for the Panthers last season but lost his starting job in training camp to Nakamura, who signed as an unrestricted free agent during the offseason.
“That’s something we’re looking at right now is that (free safety) position and making sure we’ve got our best players on the field that give us a chance to win,” McDermott said. “The way Sherrod has handled this situation all year has been all class. I’ve got nothing but the upmost respect for him.”
“We have D.J. Campbell, who is a rookie but a guy that we like. He made the 53 (man roster) because we believe in that,” River said. “The other possibility is Colin Jones, bringing him over and not really having an opportunity to go through training camp with us, and Colin is a little banged up right now. Those are our options, and we’ll continue to evaluate.”
INJURY UPDATE: The Panthers came out of Sunday’s game without any major health concerns.
NEBLETT BACK: The NFL reinstated defensive tackle Andre Neblett following his four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy for performance enhancing substances.
The Panthers have a one-week roster exemption for Neblett and must decide to add him to the 53-man roster or waive him by Monday, Oct. 8 at 4 p.m.
“We’re going to take advantage of the grace period you get with him and see where he is,” Rivera said. “We’re excited about having him back. We’ve got some decisions to make on who is going to play where and how.”
“It’s nice to know that we’ll be getting a fresh face back, somebody that brings a lot of energy to us.”
Neblett was suspended on August 31 but was still able to participate in training camp, however he was hospitalized for high blood pressure. On Monday, Neblett said he is healthy and eager to return to practice.