By Ted Fleming
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is an optimistic sort and he seems to be taking a cue from a former NFL coach now with a sports cable station. At a postgame press conference a decade ago, Herm Edwards uttered one of the most replayed phrases, “You play to win the game. Hello! You play to wi the game.”
Newton isn’t about to simply throw in the towel on the 2012 season just because he is 1-4 and threw out a verbal challenge to the rest of the team saying, “This season is far from a wash and it’s time for us to prove it.”
That might be easier said than done, even against the win-challenged Dallas Cowboys who have their own issues, because Carolina has some injuries to key players, not as many as Dallas but significant nonetheless.
Starting cornerback Chris Gamble is definitely out and while linebacker Jon Beason is listed as probable he will likely sit out yet another game. Even if he does manage to dress his contributions will be less than a healthy Beason would bring to the field. Fourth-year pro Jason Phillips steps in for Beason while Captain Munnerlyn and Josh Thomas will have to pick up the bulk of playing time with the loss of Gamble.
But if there is a concern, Newton will be the one to notice it more than anyone else because the offensive line has to be shuffled to try and keep Cowboys’ linebacker DeMarcus Ware out of the quarterback’s face. Center Ryan Kalil is already out for the season and if that wasn’t enough his replacement, Geoff Hangartner, is banged up but expected to play. Should his knee act up, the reserves are Jeff Byers and recently signed Thomas Austin.
With Hangartner sliding over from guard, Byron Bell moves from right tackle to right guard while Garry Williams will get the start at right tackle. Whether this alignment can keep Ware and others in check is a subject for debate but they will give it a shot.
The Cowboys have had their issues on offense, not so much that they cannot put points on the board but when they need to. With running back DeMarco Murray out and wide receiver Dez Bryant possibly sitting this one out, quarterback Tony Romo could be primed for one tough afternoon facing a resurgent Panthers defense.
Filling in for Murray will be Felix Jones who had another outstanding game coming off the bench. Dallas will also start Kevin Ogletree opposite Miles Austin at wide receiver. For Ogletree, it will be just his third career start and Austin is still trying to get back to 100-percent dealing with a nagging hamstring issue.
Something that could affect the outcome is the health of special teamers, notably the punters with starter Chris Jones probably out and backup Brian Moorman seemingly ready to go but one decent hit could aggravate an already sore groin. And with Bryant potentially out, the return game could be turned over to Lance Dunbar or Dwayne Harris.
The following is the injury report issued on Friday by the National Football League for the Cowboys-Panthers game in Charlotte, NC on Sunday, October 21, 2012:
DALLAS COWBOYS, 2-3, NFC East: 1-0 (** denotes starter):
S Matt Johnson (hamstring), DT Sean Lissemore (ankle), RB DeMarco Murray (foot)
**WR Dez Bryant (groin), G Ryan Cook (hamstring), **P Chris Jones (left knee), **LB Anthony Spencer (shoulder)
**CB Morris Claiborne (knee), **C Phil Costa (knee), P Brian Moorman (right groin)
CAROLINA PANTHERS, 1-4, NFC South: 1-2 (** denotes starter):
**CB Chris Gamble (shoulder)
**LB Jon Beason (knee)
DE Antwan Applewhite (knee), **C Geoff Hangartner (knee), S Colin Jones (shoulder)
FOR REFERENCE –
Out: there is no chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
Doubtful: a 25% chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
Questionable: a 50% chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
Probable: a 75% chance the injured player will be medically cleared for the game
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.