Bryan Strickland Senior Writer
CHARLOTTE – The Panthers placed special teams stalwart Kenny Onatolu on injured reserve Wednesday, but they moved one step closer to getting wide receiver David Gettis back in action for the first time in nearly two years.
The Panthers filled Onatolu’s roster spot by promoting cornerback Ron Parker from the practice squad. Parker had a brief stint on the active roster when he came off the practice squad Chris Gamble was inactive Week 5 against Seattle. Parker contributed on special teams and made one tackle.
“For the most part, our seventh linebacker was one of our special teams guys,” Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said, “so we’re basically trading him for a guy that’s going to help us on special teams.”
Soon, the Panthers could be looking for room on their 53-man roster for Gettis, who has been on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a hamstring injury since training camp but returned to practice Wednesday. The Panthers now have three weeks to decide whether to add Gettis, who missed the 2011 season with a knee injury, to the 53-man roster.
“David looked good,” Rivera said. “He ran well. He’s a big target. He seemed pretty good for the wear. He got in a lot of good work today, so we’re pretty excited.
“This week, for the most part, is about continuing to condition him and see how he is come Friday after practice, but in all likelihood we’ll be looking toward next week. We’re working him a lot, trying to get him as many snaps and reps as possible to see how he is and how he reacts. He could be a guy who can help us.”
The Panthers replaced Parker with Jerry Franklin, a rookie linebacker who was waived by the Denver Broncos in the final roster cutdown. On Tuesday, they added 334-pound tackle Ray Dominguez – who dressed for six Green Bay Packers games as a rookie in 2011 – and terminated guard Bryant Browning.
AUSTIN FEELS AT HOME: Center Thomas Austin, signed to the roster last Thursday when Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil was placed on injured reserve with a foot injury, isn’t a stranger to Bank of America Stadium.
The former Clemson standout played against Temple at the stadium nearly six years to the day the Panthers signed him, and he grew up just a couple of hours down the road.
“To be here is a little surreal. I grew up in Camden (S.C.) – about two hours from here – and my wife grew up about 45 minutes from here in York (S.C.),” Austin said. “My first pro game in person was a Panthers game. I’ve always followed the team. I watched Sam Mills growing up and guys like Jordan Gross, who was drafted when I was in high school. It’s a great organization, and Coach Rivera is trying to do things the right way.”
Now in his third NFL season, Austin has been around the block and knows how to block at multiple positions.
“I played both guard and center in college, and I did the same thing in both Houston and New England,” he said. “I have some versatility, and being with two good organizations that know how to win, that’s helped me learn how to be a pro and how to prepare. I see that potential on this team. That’s exciting.”
INJURY UPDATE: Three key players who missed the Seattle game – center Geoff Hangartner, cornerback Chris Gamble and defensive end Antwan Applewhite – took part in practice Wednesday, but linebacker Jon Beason did not.
“He practiced on Monday, but the knee flared up a little bit, so we gave him today off and we’ll see how he is tomorrow,” Rivera said. “Geoff and Chris both practiced and practiced well. Antwan was limited because he had to have those stitches put back in (his knee), but he did do some things as well. It was good to see them all out there.”