CHARLOTTE -- The Panthers found an in-house answer to one of their scouting vacancies, moving former defensive end and college scout Gerald Williams to the other side of the building.
Williams, who played for the team from 1995-97 and has worked as a college scout since 2005, will fill the pro scout vacancy created by Tag Ribary, who's leaving the team when his contract expires in June.
General manager Marty Hurney wouldn't confirm the move, saying no final announcement was ready to be made.
Williams was signed as a free agent in 1995 and started 36 games, including 31 the first two seasons. The Auburn product played his first nine seasons in Pittsburgh. After retiring, Williams earned his education degree from Belmont Abbey, and was teaching elementary school when the Panthers hired him as a combine scout who prepared reports on underclassmen.
Williams was one of eight scouts on the college side, but will be one of two pro scouts working under director Mark Koncz.
Their college scouting side is in a bit of a shuffle, having also lost area scout Joe Schoen to Miami, where he'll work as a national scout. The Panthers hired Jeff Beathard (the son of former Washington and San Diego GM Bobby Beathard) to cover the Northeast, and they're expected to move Khary Darlington from that region to the Southwest (Schoen's old territory). They're expected to promote a scouting intern to fill Williams' combine role.
• BACK IN THE GROOVE: The Panthers had two of their starting linebackers back on the field Wednesday, one of which was a mild surprise.
Middle linebacker Jon Beason (wrist) and weakside incumbent Na'il Diggs (ankle) were back after missing minicamp earlier this month.
While Beason's a rising star, that Diggs was still on the field was a bit of an eyebrow-raiser. The Panthers gave their biggest free agent contract this offseason to Landon Johnson, a three-year, $10 million acquisition. The thought was he'd displace Diggs, but Wednesday suggested the veteran may not be out of the mix yet.
• STILL ON THE SIDELINES: The Panthers still don't have either of their first-round picks on the field.
Running back Jonathan Stewart has two reasons -- a still-sore toe and the league's rule that keeps players from schools on the quarter system from working until their class graduates. Jeff Otah's still nursing the high left ankle sprain that bothered him throughout the pre-draft process.
Coach John Fox was in midseason form when asked about the prognosis for Otah.
"It's hard to predict," Fox said. "He'll be day-to-day and we'll see how it feels. He was out here exercising and our trainers tell us how that goes. When they clear him he'll be out there."
When asked if he expected Otah by now, Fox replied, "Not really. No more than I didn't expect. It's in the medical people's hands, they do that. They don't start counting until the regular season."
Running back LaBrandon Toefield (pectoral strain) was also out of practice, although his injury isn't thought to be serious.
• EXTRA POINTS: Fox said the lack of NFL Europe this year is causing him to shorten training camp.
In the past, the NFL gave roster exemptions for players who were in the developmental league, which enabled teams to take an extra half-dozen or so bodies to camp. Without them, Fox is worried about wearing out his remaining 80 in Spartanburg. The Panthers have 89 on the roster, but they'll have to cut nine when they sign draft picks.
"We're not going to be at camp for as long as we have been because of that," Fox said. "It's a six-player difference. It doesn't sound like a big number, but it is. You're practicing at camp twice a day and it does affect it. I'm not sure what everybody else in the league is doing but that's something we've looked at and we've adjusted."
They'll still alternate two-a-days with single-practice afternoons, but probably won't be at Wofford more than three weeks. ... Although the summer school workouts are voluntary, Stewart was the only player missing. ... You can't keep him away. Retired safety Mike Minter was there for the early moments of practice, chatting with some of his old teammates before heading off to another business meeting.