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Dean Marlowe injury makes Carolina Panthers precariously thin at safety

By The Sports Xchange
Dean Marlowe injury makes Carolina Panthers precariously thin at safety
Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera (L) talks with referees during the first half of their NFL preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, August 11, 2016. Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Monday will mark three weeks since Carolina Panthers safety Dean Marlowe felt a "tweak" in his hamstring and one week since coach Ron Rivera said he hoped Marlowe would return to practice the next day.

That didn't happen, and on Sunday, Marlowe again worked on the side with trainers while his teammates practiced.

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So how serious is this strain?

"It's not bad at all. It's just a nagging type of thing," Marlowe said. "Today was the best that I've felt since it happened."

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That's news the Panthers need at their thinnest position. Safety has been a mess since Trenton Robinson (pec), Travell Dixon (chest) and Marcus Ball (undisclosed) were dinged up last week in Tennessee.

Despite returning to practice on Wednesday, Dixon was held out Friday against the Patriots, leaving only three safeties to get through the night. So when Kurt Coleman and Tre Boston finished up their time with the starters, the other safety alongside Colin Jones was Brian Blechen, who played the position in college before converting to linebacker last summer.

Running out of bodies, the Panthers tried out at least four safeties on Saturday, including veterans Donte Whitner and Stevie Brown, who left town without contracts.

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"We'll see," Rivera said when asked if the Panthers would continue safety shopping. "We like who we have, but with some of the injuries we have we most certainly have to look. You want to make sure that short list is a positive one."

If they didn't like what they saw in Whitner and Brown, the Panthers could find someone worth adding in the next week. Two rounds of cuts will chop more than 1,000 players from rosters, and the casualties should include a few dozen safeties.

--With Tuesday afternoon's league-mandated deadline approaching, the Panthers on Sunday started to make moves to whittle their roster down to 75 players.

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Of the 11 players let go, the biggest name was WR Stephen Hill, who was trying to come back from a devastating knee injury.

The Panthers were excited about the former second-round pick's progress last summer, but Hill tore three knee ligaments and his hamstring during the first weekend of training camp. He then spent much of the past year rehabbing alongside fellow wideout Kelvin Benjamin.

From the time the Panthers reported to training camp last month, it was clear Hill was struggling to run on his surgically repaired knee. He played just 37 snaps in three preseason games, including eight on Friday against the Patriots, the fewest among Carolina's receivers.

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"Stephen came in and did the best he could under the circumstances," coach Ron Rivera said. "I'm just real proud of who he was for us and the effort he gave us. He gave us everything he had."

Besides Hill, the Panthers cut 10 others Sunday: WR Miles Shuler, WR Avius Capers, TE Braxton Deaver, G Reese Dismukes, DT Ray Drew, OT David Foucault, C Matt Masifilo, OT Willie Smith, DE Tom Lally and LB Jared Barber.

--If safety Kurt Coleman isn't the first guy on the field before a practice, he's at least one of the first. Coleman likes to spend a few minutes catching passes from the JUGS machine before beginning the rest of his day.

After he had dropped what should have been an interception of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, Coleman said he'd be on the machine before Sunday's practice, a vow he kept after arriving first.

It wasn't long before Coleman was joined by the secondary for a rare pre-practice session with the entire unit and assistant coaches Steve Wilks and Curtis Fuller. The whole group then worked for about 10 more minutes after practice.

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"What's the most precious thing in life? Time. You never have enough of it," Wilks said. "We're just always trying to hone our craft and working on the fine details of the game."

NOTES: QB Derek Anderson, who's missed few, if any practices since coming to Carolina, sat out Sunday. According to coach Ron Rivera, Anderson was "a little bit sore" after Friday's game against the Patriots. ... WR Philly Brown practiced for the first time since he took a hard hit on his surgically repaired shoulder early in Tuesday's practice. ... Ryan Delaire didn't practice and worked on the side with a wrap around his lower left leg. ... P Mike Scifres, who injured the knee in his kicking leg Friday night, was "going to see the doctor," according to Rivera. There's still a good chance the Panthers' Week 1 punter isn't on the roster.

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