As players arrived in Spartanburg for training camp, Carolina announced that Bene’ Benwikere would be placed on Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. Benwikere suffered a broken ankle in December. It was painful to watch and, obviously, it’s been a painful recovery. A few months ago, Benwikere reported on WFNZ’ Primetime that he was recovering well, but that he still wasn’t 100%. He was optimistic about being ready training camp and confident he’d be back to full strength by the beginning of the season.
When news broke today that Benwikere wouldn’t start camp, you could feel Panther Nation collectively gasp. Go ahead, exhale. There’s good news. The PUP designation doesn’t mean Benwikere isn’t recovering well. He can join practice activities at any time. Once a player participates in training camp, even if it's just for a moment, that player is no longer eligible to be designated to the PUP list.
This is a precautionary measure by Carolina. Just last month, Benwikere claimed he was well enough to at Panther mini-camp. Assuming he hasn’t had a setback, the ankle should only be stronger. Rivera explained, however, that they wanted to make sure he was “100% before throwing him out there.”
The real bad news is that Carolina has to be this protective of Benwikere. He’s a critical piece in the Panthers secondary. After losing Josh Norman, Benwikere is also one Carolina’s more experienced cornerbacks. Carolina doesn’t have a corner on the roster who has seen more snaps in a Panther jersey than the third year player. Sure, there’s Robert Mclain and newly signed Leonard Johnson, but McClain only has 17 career starts and Johnson is also on the PUP list still recovering from offseason Achilles surgery.
Carolina is betting big on Benwikere. They are betting he will be fully recovered and play at a high level this season. They are betting he will stay healthy. And what many are overlooking, Carolina is betting Benwikere can transition from nickel to outside corner.
There’s a lot riding on the third year player who will be working out with the trainers rather than the players. In the meantime, the three rookie corners, James Bradberry, Daryl Worley, and Zack Sanchez will get plenty practice reps. Carolina is betting a lot on these guys as well.
As it turns out, Benwikere’s ankle may not be what should worry us most.
By the Professor, aka Tony Dunn
Follow him on Twitter @Cat_Chornicles