Injury update: Johnson may be long shot

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson hasn't been ruled out for Sunday's game at Miami, but if recent history with players who had similar injuries is an indication he would be a long shot.

Carolina's sack leader (8.5) sprained his right knee in the third quarter of Monday night's 24-20 victory against the New England Patriots when he was leg whipped by Marcus Cannon.

Coach Ron Rivera described the injury as similar to the one suffered by tight end Ben Hartsock the previous week against San Francisco. Hartsock was unable to play against New England even with an extra day to recover.

Even if that is the case with Johnson, Rivera feels lucky because the injury isn't long term.

"We're very fortunate,'' he said on Wednesday. "We really are. He sprained it, and we'll see as each day goes on [if he can play]. We'll re-evaluate after three days to see how he's reacting to the treatment.''

An MRI taken on Tuesday revealed the sprain that Johnson actually played on in the final series.

"He was relieved,'' Rivera said. "He really was, and I'm very happy for him. He's playing very well right now. He's playing about as well as any defensive end in this league.''

Rivera said third-year player Mario Addison, who replaced Johnson when the injury occurred, Frank Alexander and Wes Horton will compete for playing time if Johnson can't go.

Addison also plays a big role on special teams.

"It's going to come down to how these other guys practice this week,'' Rivera said. "If Charles is not going to go, we're going to evaluate the three young guys and see how they practice and play the best one available this week.''

Linebacker Chase Blackburn, who missed the New England game with a foot injury, said that in "all likelihood'' he will be out for this week's game, and that the doctors wanted him to stay off the foot for another week. Rivera had said earlier that even if Blackburn is ready, rookie A.J. Klein might continue to start.

"It's going to be interesting to see,'' Rivera said. "Chase has done some really good things for us and A.J. has played well. ... We're going to see. We're going to watch that very closely.''