Max Henson Staff Writer
CHARLOTTE – Wide receiver Kealoha Pilares will undergo an MRI on his shoulder after taking a hard hit while returning a kickoff midway through the third quarter of Sunday’s win over the Washington Redskins.
“We are a little concerned about the shoulder, obviously,” Rivera said. “He’ll see the doctors tomorrow and we’ll have a better idea. They are going to do the whole exam. Hopefully, it’ll be good news.”
Pilares’ diagnosis could impact the team’s decision on wide receiver David Gettis, who will either come off the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday or remain there for the rest of the season.
“In light of what happened with Kealoha, we’ll have to wait and see, and (activating Gettis) might be an option for us,” Rivera said. “We’ll have our decision tomorrow.”
THOMAS IMPRESSING: The Panthers claimed cornerback Josh Thomas off waivers from Dallas last season despite a hamstring injury, and his play over the last few weeks has affirmed Rivera’s belief in the young corner’s ability.
“People wondered why we would bring a guy in that was hurt, but there was something about him,” Rivera said. “Once he got healthy he started to flash.
“This year in training camp he was tremendous. He’s a very physical corner. A smart kid and a solid young person. Football is important to him and the way he plays reflects it.”
Thomas’ role increased when veteran starter Chris Gamble suffered a season-ending injury prior to Week 5. Thomas is now the third cornerback on the depth chart behind rookie Josh Norman and Captain Munnerlyn, and he plays on the outside in nickel packages.
The Panthers were in their nickel defense on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line in the second quarter against the Redskins, when Robert Griffin III executed a designed quarterback run toward the right pylon.
It was Thomas who set the edge, allowing his teammates to rally to the football and stop Griffin III for no gain.
“He just held the point. He was a big part of stopping that play, he really was, because he set the edge,” Rivera said. “That was one of the (points of) emphasis we had all week as far as our defense was concerned, was setting the edge, trying to maintain a position to try to keep the ball turned in.
“That’s what happened and we got great pursuit.”
In the second quarter, Nakamura was flagged for a hit over the middle on wideout Josh Morgan, who was considered a defenseless receiver.
“The one on Haruki is tough, because the ball is going down and Haruki is going down as well. And the receiver is down. It’s a bang-bang play,” Rivera said. “In my opinion, it looked like Haruki led with his shoulder and not helmet-to-helmet.
“The explanation I got right away was, ‘Coach, we have to err on the side of safety, and the players’ have to understand that.’ It’s tough to fault anybody at that point.”
Davis was penalized for unnecessary roughness when he drilled Griffin III as he neared the sideline in the fourth quarter.
“The Thomas one is hard because it was a quarterback,” Rivera said. “If it was a running back, I promise you they don’t throw the flag.”
Griffin III had been stopped for after a 7-yard gain on third-and-13, but the penalty gave the Redskins first-and-goal from the Carolina 3-yard line and they scored a touchdown two plays later.
“I told Thomas, ‘I went through the same thing back when I played and I hit Dan Marino on the sideline too, and he was well inbounds when I hit him. You have to understand, you’re in their stadium, he’s a draw, somebody they pay attention to, and they are going to call it on you every time.’ He realizes it too.
“That would have put them at fourth-and-six and the way we had played, I would have loved to see what would have happened. Our defense, their mentality has been outstanding, especially in the red zone.”
PANTHERS AND THE PRESIDENT: The Panthers played a part in the latest installment of the “Redskins Rule” on Sunday.
When the Redskins earn a victory in their final home game before the presidential election, the incumbent wins. When they lose, the challenger wins. That’s been the case 17 out of 18 times.
The only outlier was in 2004 when Washington lost to Green Bay and George W. Bush won a second term.
“If it comes true, maybe we should get invited to the white house,” Rivera joked.