Panthers have to make plans without Kemoeatu

Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Whenever they were asked about their lack of activity in free agency, the Carolina Panthers proudly pointed to the fact they had 21 of 22 starters returning from a 12-4 team.

Knock that number down to 20 and subtract about 350 pounds from an already-thin defensive interior. The Panthers received worst-case scenario news Monday night when they got official word that defensive tackle Maake Kemoeatu suffered a torn right Achilles tendon in the opening session of training camp.

The injury happened early in Monday morning's practice as Kemoeatu was running in a pursuit drill. You could make a case that the injury hits Carolina in its most susceptible spot. Fellow starter Damione Lewis is the only other established defensive tackle on the roster.

Carolina general manager Marty Hurney said Monday night the team hasn't made a decision on whether to put Kemoeatu on the injured-reserve list and out for the year. The team still wants to meet with medical personnel to see if there's a chance Kemoeatu could return late in the season, but that may be a stretch.

Hurney said the team will explore all its options in the aftermath and that likely means looking for a big run stuffer somewhere else. Second-year pro Nick Hayden worked in Kemoeatu's place Monday night and undrafted rookie Marlon Favorite got some work there in the morning session. The team has hope that Hayden can develop into a contributor, but isn't sure he's ready to take on a starting role.

Although the list of available veterans is slim right now, Carolina probably will monitor closely what comes available through the remainder of the preseason.