That's devastating news for the Panthers (1-3).
After remaining fairly injury-free last season en route to the
NFC championship, the bumps, bruises and breaks have piled up early
Star receiver Steve Smith is out indefinitely with a broken leg;
top running back Stephen Davis has missed three games after
knee surgery; and kick returner Rod Smart, also the No. 3 running back on the roster, is out with a knee injury.
Take Foster out of the mix and the Panthers have a serious
shortage of healthy players headed into Sunday's game at
Philadelphia -- a rematch of last season's NFC title game.
"I don't think there is any quit in our football team
regardless of the circumstances," coach John Fox said Monday.
"We've still got three quarters of the season left, and whether
there is injuries or not, nobody is going to come rescue us, so
we've got to bow up and compete."
But with whom?
Davis is still day-to-day, even after declaring only "a
hurricane, maybe a tornado or something" would hold him out of
Sunday's game at Denver. When he looked just so-so in pregame
warm-ups, the Panthers scratched him in favor of Foster.
Fox said Smart definitely won't play against the Eagles, and
Davis is still uncertain. That leaves him eyeing Joey Harris, an
undrafted rookie from Purdue currently on the team's practice
squad, as a possible starter in Philadelphia.
"We're going to obviously do something," Fox said. "We are
very thin there at this point."
The problems aren't limited to offense, either.
Linebacker Mark Fields did not make the trip to Denver because,
Fox said, the Panthers feared the three-hour flight would aggravate
the back spasms he has been fighting for more than a week. Defensive
tackle Brentson Buckner was also inactive, with a knee injury,
and All-Pro DT Kris Jenkins has seemed to struggle with a shoulder
problem most of the season, though the team hasn't acknowledged it.
The end result has been a pitiful run defense from a team that
is built around stopping the run.
A year ago, Carolina's front four was despondent after giving up
124 yards rushing to Deuce McAllister in a victory over New Orleans. It was an aberration at the time, and McAllister is not
exactly a scrub running back.
But a day after obscure fullback Reuben Droughns ran for 193
yards against their once-vaunted defense, Carolina was ready to
admit it has some problems.
"Fundamentally ... there were a lot of different reasons why
[Denver's] yardage was so high," Fox said. "We're capable of
better, and I think there are things that are correctable."
Fox was quick to point out that despite the shoddy defense, the
Panthers still had a chance to win.
They at least had a chance to tie it -- and temporarily did on
John Kasay's 42-yard field goal with 6:42 left -- but it was
nullified by a false start call.
Offensive lineman Matt Willig, who said he got hit by the
official's flag, was then called for unsportsmanlike conduct when
he picked up the yellow rag and tossed it downfield.
The 20 yards in penalties forced Carolina to punt, and the
Panthers never got the ball back. In hindsight, Fox said, he should
have let Kasay try the field goal.
"If I had known they were going to hold the ball the rest of
the game, I probably should have let him [attempt the field
goal]," Fox said. "Given that field position with that time and
place, it would have been a tough call."