CHARLOTTE -- Carolina Panthers offensive lineman Jeremy Bridges returned to the locker room Monday after completing his two-game suspension, apologizing to fans and promising to work his way back into the starting lineup.
The projected starter at right guard entering camp, Bridges has been gone as a result of his arrest the day before training camp on assault charges, for allegedly pointing a gun at a female employee of a strip club.
He wouldn't comment on his legal situation -- he has pleaded not guilty and will be tried Oct. 2 -- but was quick to offer his apology.
"The situation I'm going through, whatever, I want to apologize first and foremost to Charlotte and the Richardson organization, my teammates and fans," Bridges said. "It's unfortunate and please believe it, it's been real rough for me. I feel like I put the coaching staff and my teammates in a bad situation by me not being there."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Herald
In his absence, the Panthers started rookie Ryan Kalil, and his poor play in Sunday's 34-21 loss to Houston could open the door for Bridges sooner rather than later. Even if he doesn't start Sunday at Atlanta, he doesn't figure to be down long.
"Yeah I do," he replied when asked if he expected to regain his job. "I don't see a reason why I shouldn't be. But if not, I'm going to work my way back. I'm not going to sit back and just sulk. If they choose to play Ryan one more week or make me try to earn my position back, I'm all for that.
"I put myself in this situation, so I'm willing to work my way back."
His suspension officially ended Monday, and the team has until Wednesday afternoon to activate him, at which point they'll have to cut another player. Coach John Fox said they'd take all that time to make a decision.
Bridges didn't talk to reporters through training camp despite repeated requests, but said Monday he was sorry his problem came at a time of increased attention to conduct problems league-wide, and agreed that his suspension was justified.
"Anytime a player has an off-field incident, it's disappointing to the team, especially to the coaches," he said. "The coaches expect more of me. Like I said, wrong place wrong time with that situation.
"You can't have off-field incidents without there being a suspension, especially in this day in age in the NFL with everybody doing the wrong thing. Not everybody, but with a select few doing the wrong things. I don't want to put anybody in that category because I'm not one of those guys. Those are repeat offenders and what they're doing, that's not me. My situation happened. But for me, that's over."
• ROAD SWEET ROAD: Fox shrugged when asked about the fact his regular season road record (23-18, .561) is better than his home mark (22-19, .537).
"Anytime you lose it's frustrating, home or away," he said.
When asked if he had any theories, he replied: "Not really. A lot of it has to do with who you're playing, not so much where you're playing."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he's one of just four NFL coaches with better road records (among coaches with at least 40 games on the road and at home).
The others are San Francisco bosses Bill Walsh and Dick Nolan and former New Orleans coach Jim Haslett.
• INJURY UPDATE: The Panthers placed cornerback Dante Wesley on injured reserve with a cracked collarbone, ending his comeback season. Wesley was injured on the opening kickoff Sunday. His roster spot was taken by cornerback Curtis Deloatch, who came to camp, was let go at final cuts, re-signed prior to the St. Louis game and was cut again last week to make room for tight end Christian Fauria.
Adam Seward (calf) was also mentioned having been hurt Sunday, though his status is unclear.
• EXTRA POINTS: Former Panthers quarterback Chris Weinke worked out for the Buffalo Bills, as they kept an eye on the list of available passers. Weinke didn't attend training camp this year, but continues to try to get back into the game ... Fox said Houston receiver Andre Johnson's first touchdown came on a blown coverage, and there was probably a shortcoming on the second one was well. When asked if linebacker Dan Morgan was supposed to be covering Johnson one-on-one across the middle, Fox said: "Short, yes."