Carolina Panthers

Rucker returns to field

PHILADELPHIA -- Eight months from the day some thought his career with the Carolina Panthers might have ended, defensive end Mike Rucker was back on the field Friday night.

The 32-year-old Rucker tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee on Dec. 17 against Pittsburgh, and began his quick road back with surgery in January. He didn't play in last week's preseason opener at New York, and wasn't a sure thing to play Friday until he got through pre-game warm-ups with no problems.

Rucker has participated since the start of camp, though he's been limited to one practice a day as he eases back from the injury. Friday, he played the first two series before being replaced by Dave Ball.

Though his time was limited, he did make a few nice plays in the running game, including an open-field stop on Eagles running back Brian Westbrook.

• NEW LOOKS: The Panthers started the offensive line they've worked with all week, with rookie Ryan Kalil at center and Justin Hartwig at right guard.

Expect another look next week, as that group allowed three sacks early.

The Panthers also had Drew Carter starting at wide receiver opposite Steve Smith for the second week in a row.

Na'il Diggs was also back at weakside linebacker. He missed last week and much of the first two weeks of camp with a hamstring strain.

• STILL CHILLING: Once again, middle linebacker Dan Morgan dressed and went through warm-ups, but didn't play. The Panthers are bringing him along slowly because of last year's concussion problems, and he may take just a few snaps in the preseason because they're focusing on having him ready for the regular-season opener in St. Louis.

The hidden benefit has been more work for backup Adam Seward, who started in the middle for the second straight week.

• PEPPERS RESTS: Defensive end Julius Peppers stayed back in Charlotte to recover from his latest illness, which team officials said wasn't serious and probably wouldn't keep him out of practice for long next week.

Peppers missed a few days of practice earlier in camp with a stomach ailment, but the Panthers said this was unrelated.

Also missing the trip were: safety Nate Salley, cornerback Curtis Deloatch and wide receivers Josh Davis and Justin McCullum.

The Eagles were without 14 players, including safety Brian Dawkins and defensive end Jevon Kearse.

• EXTRA POINTS: The Panthers wore their alternate blue jerseys Friday. They'll don them twice more in the regular season, once at home and on the road.

They're 5-4 all-time in the regular season wearing blue (.556), the only color they have a winning record in, better than white (56-58, .491) and black (29-40, .420). ...

Director of ticket sales Phil Youtsey said that fewer than 300 tickets remain for next Friday's preseason game against New England, and fewer than 900 are left for the preseason finale Aug. 30 against Pittsburgh. The regular season's sold out.

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