Bryan Strickland Senior Writer
CHARLOTTE – While the Panthers continued preparations for Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos, the organization continued preparations behind the scenes for the hiring of its next general manager.
Longtime NFL front office executive Ernie Accorsi will serve as a consultant for the Panthers’ general manager search, the team announced Friday.
Accorsi, who spent 19 seasons in general manager roles with the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Colts before retiring from the Giants following the 2006 season, currently chairs an NFL committee that advises general managers.
A 1963 graduate of Wake Forest University who has worked in the NFL since 1970, Accorsi has known Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson since Accorsi worked with the Baltimore Colts in the 1970s.
“I have a very high regard for Mr. Richardson and look forward to providing any help that I can to him and the organization for a new general manager,” Accorsi said.
The Panthers parted ways with longtime general manager Marty Hurney on Oct. 22. Director of football operations Brandon Beane is serving as interim general manager.
As the hiring process continues away from the field, the Panthers are fired up about what’s next on the field. They’re mostly healthy and very hungry for the Broncos, according to head coach Ron Rivera.
“This could be a benchmark type of win that we could build off of,” Rivera said, noting the opportunity to win back-to-back games for the first time this season. “The energy coming from the practice field this week, that’s what winning does. We want to be able to sustain it instead of starting all over again.
“We took the energy we had against Washington and the momentum from winning and applied it to these last three days. It’s been tremendous – their focus, energy level and excitement. That’s big.”
Also big is the improved health of the team. Seven players who missed practice Wednesday – the majority of them sitting out simply to get some rest – are probable for the Broncos game. That includes fullback
Mike Tolbert, who had been in the NFL’s concussion protocol but cleared his final hurdle by passing a test after returning to practice Thursday.
Defensive end Thomas Keiser, who returned to practice Wednesday after missing two games with an elbow injury, is questionable. Defensive end Antwan Applewhite will likely miss a third consecutive game with a hamstring injury. He is doubtful after missing the entire week of practice.
The injury report doesn’t include wide receiver Brandon LaFell, who practiced all week after being inactive at Washington because of concussion-like symptoms. LaFell, Steve Smith and Louis Murphy are expected to get the bulk of the receiver reps.
Behind them, Rivera said the Panthers would look for spots to use Armanti Edwards as well as David Gettis, who will see his first action since 2010. The Panthers placed wide receiver Kealoha Pilares on injured reserve with a shoulder injury Tuesday and activated Gettis from the physically unable to perform list.
Gettis is expected to return kickoffs, with Murphy and Edwards available as well. Rivera indicated that cornerback Captain Munnerlyn would remain in his punt return role against the Broncos, meaning rookie Joe Adams likely will be inactive for the sixth consecutive game.