By Ted Fleming
Seven sacks. When your quarterback, who is quite mobile, is dropped that many times in one game, you need to look for help on the offensive line, and that is what the Panthers did when they signed free agent guard Jeremy Bridges on Wednesday.
The 32-year-old out of Southern Mississippi was originally drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2003, but never got into a game after being inactive the entire season. Since then, the 10-year veteran has played for just two teams – a pair of seasons in Arizona with the Cardinals, the next three with the Panthers, the last three back in the desert and now he makes a return trip to Charlotte.
Nine days ago Bridges was waived from injured reserve/injury settlement by the Cards, making him eligible to be signed once again by Carolina.
“Well [we’re] hoping to see if we can get a little more of a veteran player that’s done it before at that position,” said Carolina head coach Ron Rivera after Wednesday’s practice. “We’ll work him in and see how he does. He’s coming off an injured thumb (with Arizona) and so we brought him in, worked him out and signed him.”
When asked if there were any character concerns with his new player, Rivera admitted the team thought about it, but they were fine with bringing him back into the fold. Bridges has had a couple of run-ins with the law: one in 2007 where he served a two-game suspension for misdemeanor assault with a gun, and one the following year when he was charged with simple assault and battery stemming from an incident at a nightclub. He was released after the 2008 season.
“His last few years at Arizona he seemed to mature and he’s a veteran guy,” said Rivera. “He’s a guy who can come in and help us and we felt very comfortable with it. I was actually in Philadelphia when they drafted him so I know a little bit about Jeremy and I felt very confident that he’s going to come in and do things we need him to do for us.”
Bridges has not played a game this season so the big question would be what kind of shape would the 6-foot-5, 318-pounder be in and Rivera simply said, “He won’t be ready enough to start but ready enough to be ready, just in case.” When he sees action it will be at one of the offensive line positions, just not at center.
The seven sacks raised some eyebrows because it tied a franchise mark for the third most allowed in a game, but the O-line has been part of the reason the ground game has suffered as well. Rivera points to the injury to center Ryan Kalil that ended his season prematurely and there has been a lot of shifting of players to make up for it.
“Any time you lose your starting center it’s hard,” he said. “Then you try to make up for it by moving players around and so they’ve struggled a bit. But they’re fighting and scrapping and trying to do the best that they can. They’ve had some good weeks, last week was a tough week obviously, and hopefully they can bounce back against them (the Buccaneers on Sunday).
PRACTICE NOTES: DE Antwan Applewhite (hamstring), LB Thomas Davis (not injury related), DT Dwan Edwards (ankle), T Jordan Gross (not injury related), C Geoff Hangartner (knee), WR Steve Smith (not injury related) all missed practice on Wednesday. WR Armanti Edwards (groin), G Amini Silatolu (shoulder) participated but were limited.
OTHER TRANSACTIONS: Defensive end Thomas Keiser was placed on injured reserve with an elbow injury.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.