Wednesday afternoon, Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule addressed the media for the first time since players reported to camp and provided an injury update.
"KK [Short] looks like he's in fantastic shape. He's 315 pounds. I think he's done a really good job of putting himself in position to have a special year."
Short suffered a partially torn rotator cuff in week two vs Tampa Bay in 2019 and was forced to miss the remainder of the season. His absence was a big part in the Panthers finishing 28th in rushing defense a year ago and will certainly be welcomed back into the starting lineup in 2020 alongside first round selection Derrick Brown.
Rhule also mentioned that linebacker Shaq Thompson and kicker Graham Gano are both back and "look healthy."
Thompson played in 14 games last year before being forced to miss the final two games of the regular season due to an ankle injury. This was coming off the heels of his four-year, $54 million contract extension. Now that Luke Kuechly has retired, Thompson's presence will be even more critical.
Yesterday, the team announced that punter Michael Palardy will miss the entire 2020 season due to an ACL injury, which likely means undrafted rookie Joseph Charlton of South Carolina will handle the punting duties for the upcoming season. As for Rhule's confidence in Charlton? It's through the roof.
"He got a big, big, big leg and he has elite hangtime. He just has the leg to do it and he's got the ability, so have to provide him the right environment so he can get confident. We're confident that he has all the tools to do this."
Injuries won't be the only concern for Matt Rhule to work through in 2020. The number of players that either contract the virus or decide to opt out of the season due to the pandemic will also be an obstacle. Yesterday, the team announced that undrafted linebacker Jordan Mack will be opting out of the season. Rhule was asked if he expects any others to follow and opt out.
'In terms of other players, I think those are family decisions that they're all going to have. I don't know if anyone else will opt out, it's such a deeply, personal thing for everybody."
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