In last Sunday's loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a knee injury and was removed from the game. The result of an MRI showed that Bridgewater sustained an MCL sprain and although there was no structural damage, it was a serious enough injury to put his status for this week's game vs Detroit in doubt.
Today, Carolina head coach Matt Rhule shot down a few reports stating that Bridgewater is trending toward being unlikely to play this Sunday vs the Lions. He has been limited in the first two days of practice this week, but Rhule remains hopeful that he will be able to go and is taking things day by day.
"I mean, he's extremely limited right now. He's throwing all the routes and stuff but not with anyone around him - we don't want him to get stepped on or hurt. He's moving around well in terms of jogging and stuff, but he hasn't really opened up yet. I don't know what he'll do until he does that and we're trying to be smart about when to do that. He's preparing as if he's going to play. If we get to Sunday and he feels like he can play, or if Saturday he feels like 'I can definitely do this,' then we're going to play him. I'm not going to put him out there if he's going to hurt himself, but if he can play, he's going to play."
If Bridgewater is unable to go, either Will Grier or P.J. Walker will be thrust into the starting role and is a situation that would likely favor Grier. The team invested a third round draft pick in him a couple of years ago and started two games last year as a rookie before injuring his foot in the season finale vs New Orleans.
"There's no issues with him grasping onto what we do. He's a worker, he's a grinder. He comes in and prepares at a high level," Rhule said of Grier. "He gets extra reps, he stays out after practice, he's always working. His work ethic and his mental toughness are real strengths that you saw in college and you see them now. You can see him week in and week out just getting better and better and better at it."
P.J. Walker has a history with Matt Rhule having played for him during his collegiate days at Temple. Walker was a major part of the turnaround at Temple, leading the program to back-to-back ten win seasons in 2015, 2016. He signed with the Indianapolis Colts as an undrafted free agent in May of 2017, but never appeared in a regular season game. In effort to revive his football career, he took his talents to the XFL and became a star for the Houston Roughnecks and was arguably the front-runner for the league's MVP award. In five games with the Roughnecks, Walker tossed for 1,338 yards and 15 touchdowns while also rushing for 99 yards and one touchdown.
We likely won't know who will be starting at quarterback until the very last minute, according to Rhule. Regardless, this is a great opportunity for Grier and Walker to separate themselves and become the clear No. 2 guy when Bridgewater does return.
"We probably wouldn't say anything about it until Saturday or Sunday. Both guys are doing a good job. We just walked off the practice field, I thought both guys yet again today did a nice job and both guys have good energy in the huddle. Both guys are grinding away and we're convinced that both guys can be winning quarterbacks in the National Football League. So we'll go all the way through the week and if Teddy doesn't go, then we would take the guy that we feels gives us the best chance to win this week."
The Panthers and Lions are slated to kickoff this Sunday on FOX at 1 p.m. EST.
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