In two games against the New Orleans Saints this season, the Carolina Panthers have allowed six sacks on quarterback Cam Newton – and that was with Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner in the lineup.
Turner, though, hasn’t played in any of Carolina’s past three games while in the NFL’s concussion protocol. After practicing on a limited basis all last week and being listed as questionable for the contest against the Falcons, Turner was downgraded to out the day before the game. The Panthers lost 22-10.
But Wednesday, Turner was a full participant in practice. Coach Ron Rivera said, “it’s just the next step in the protocol,” but still, it is an encouraging one.
As for what it would mean on the field if Turner returned versus the Saints? Well, Newton broke into a grin when asked that very question on Wednesday.
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“He’s somewhat of the alleycat on the line,” Newton said. “We expect Trai to have that mentality of, you know, by any means necessary. He sets the tempo, him and (left guard Andrew) Norwell, those guys play hand in hand together.”
The Panthers average about 17 more rushing yards per game with Turner in the lineup, a significant figure when talking about first down conversions.
In Turner’s absence, Amini Silatolu has started at right guard. And while Newton said the team will likely still need Silatolu even if Turner does play – in jumbo packages and standing by in case of injury – the return of a Pro Bowl guard is nothing to underrate. Turner has not yet been cleared by an independent neurologist, and until he is, he can’t play.
What exactly, though, does it mean for a player to be an alleycat?
“You have to ask Cam for the definition of that,” Rivera said, “but I just know he’s a scrappy player. Hard-nosed guy, good athlete. He’s probably one of our better offensive linemen, so ... we’re hoping to get everything cleared and that he’ll be ready to roll on Sunday.”
Along with Turner, safety Kurt Coleman (ankle) and tight end Greg Olsen (foot) were full participants in practice.
Tackle Matt Kalil (illness), center Ryan Kalil (shoulder), running back Jonathan Stewart (back), and linebacker Shaq Thompson (foot) were all limited participants in practice Wednesday.
Defensive end Mario Addison (hip), receiver Devin Funchess (shoulder), and defensive end Wes Horton (rib) did not practice. Neither did defensive end Julius Peppers and safety Mike Adams, who both had veteran days off.