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MRI shows Panthers’ Shaq should be back

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CHARLOTTE — The Carolina Panthers received good news about linebacker Shaq Thompson Monday when an MRI confirmed the rookie avoided a serious injury while making a tackle on a kickoff late in Sunday’s win over the Seahawks.

According to a Panthers spokesman, Thompson suffered a knee sprain, but his ACL was not affected. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported the specific injury is “a minor MCL sprain.”

After cutting down Seahawks returner Tyler Lockett inside the 10-yard line on what Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis called “the biggest play of the game,” Thompson hit the turf, writhing in pain.

“The returner, as he was trying to cut across, I think he saw Shaq coming and just ducked. And because he ducked he put the helmet right on Shaq’s knee,” head coach Ron Rivera said. “The nice thing and the thing that was fortunate is his leg was coming up. It wasn’t planted into the ground 100 percent. It was starting to come up, so he kind of got it caught that way.”

Thompson, who after the game said his knee was “just sore,” will likely miss some practice time and his status for Week 7 against the Eagles is in doubt. But considering how the injury looked when it first happened, Thompson and the Panthers dodged a bullet.

“Initially, they’re looking at a sprain and bone contusion,” Rivera said. “Realistically, that’s the best news we could get.”

–Panthers cornerback Josh Norman had his worst game of the season Sunday in Seattle. Well, statistically.

Norman had just two tackles, and for the first time this season, he finished without a pass breakup. Of course, it’s tough to make a play on the ball when it’s rarely thrown your way.

According to Pro Football Focus, the Seahawks targeted Norman twice. According to Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, it was less than that.

“One time on a screen,” McDermott said Monday with a smirk.

That play came midway through the first quarter when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson hit tight end Jimmy Graham four yards behind the line of scrimmage. It went for no gain.

“They wanted to see if (Norman) could tackle,” McDermott said.

“If you’ve got a player that’s hot and that plays well, they’re going to go after him, but they’re going to go after him in calculated ways. And they did that yesterday with the screen and Josh showed up.”

Norman filled highlight reels the first month of the season when, as he’s described it, quarterbacks have disrespected him by throwing his way. Seattle’s Russell Wilson apparently held Norman in a higher regard.

“He was the smartest quarterback we’ve played so far this year because of that,” Norman quipped.

Last season, some Panthers started calling Norman a shut-down corner. But until Sunday, no quarterback had almost completely avoided throwing his way. It won’t show up on SportsCenter, but it was another step in Norman’s rise.

“Shoot, if he can take away half the field, then that’s on them,” McDermott said.

When asked which players he’s coached that forced offenses to operate like Seattle did, McDermott mentioned former Eagles Asante Samuel, Troy Vincent, Bobby Taylor and Al Harris.

And does McDermott like when one side of the field is essentially ignored?

“Yeah, I do,” he said, smirking again.

Notes: Linebacker A.J. Klein (concussion) stayed home Sunday and is still in the NFL’s protocol. . . . . Cornerback Teddy Williams (concussion) took a knee to the helmet while making a tackle on a kickoff and is now in the league’s protocol.


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