SPARTANBURG -- The Panthers practiced without middle linebacker Jon Beason on Tuesday.
And unlike years past, having the signal-caller out of the middle of the defense didn't result in a panic or a massive overhaul of the depth chart.
With Beason inside nursing a sore left ankle, they were fortunate to have Adam Seward back on the field, and he worked ahead of promising rookie Dan Connor. That gave them the kind of legitimate options they've lacked in the past.
Since former middle linebacker Dan Morgan was never able to stay on the field (playing 59 of a possible 112 games here, or 52.7 percent), they're used to such emergencies. But that past also explains why they spent the offseason covering themselves for such disasters.
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"Obviously we've had some injury issues in the past with our middle linebacker," Panthers coach John Fox said, in the understatement of camp so far. "So restocking that position is two-fold. Number one, we think it is a critical position and it gives us more depth. But it also gives us the kinds of bodies we think will help improve our special teams."
Connor was a pleasant surprise on draft day, as they weren't necessarily looking for the position, but felt they had to take him in the third round. And while Seward's never going to be confused with Lou Gehrig or Cal Ripken (playing 31 of a possible 48 games), he's been a solid player when he's well.
The Panthers have other options, too. Free agent pickup Landon Johnson's versatile enough to play all three spots, but they're letting him concentrate on the outside for now.
• INJURY UPDATE: The cast of injured players working on the side Tuesday was smaller than any day since the start of camp, with just a pair of tight ends working with strength coaches and riding bikes.
Tight ends Gary Barnidge (gluteal strain) and Dante Rosario (hamstring) were on the side, while safety Chris Harris stayed indoors to get treatment on a groin pull. Running back Jonathan Stewart had his traditional off-day, as he's alternating heavy practices to give his toe time to heal.
When asked about the condition of defensive leaders Beason and Harris, Fox actually gave out something resembling information.
"I think they're day-to-day," Fox said. "There is nothing really, really serious. They are not in the week-to-week category, although some times those day-to-day ones can stretch to that; but they are not real serious injuries."
• EASING BACK IN: Defensive tackle Damione Lewis finished a practice for the first time in more than a week Tuesday, holding up well throughout the longest session of camp so far.
The starter was leg-whipped last Monday, and lost a few days when he tried to come back too soon and aggravated a sore left ankle.
"It's coming along," Lewis said. "Just trying to nurse it and get it right. I don't want to come out early and hurt it again."
Lewis said last week he thought he was ready, but trainer Ryan Vermillion kept waving him off after he'd warm up. That's why he was hesitant to say whether he thought he'd be able to play in Saturday's preseason opener against Indianapolis.
"Don't know; just taking it day-to-day," he said Tuesday morning. "Whatever I think, it seems to be the complete opposite when I sit down and talk to Ryan. We'll see. Today and tomorrow weigh heavily on that."
• EXTRA POINTS: To cover for the tight end injuries, the Panthers made a roster move Tuesday. They brought back Chad Upshaw, who was here earlier in the offseason and spent part of last year on the practice squad.
To make room for him, they released defensive tackle Michael Marquardt, who arrived last week when that position was in short supply. ...
Even though they're getting close to their first game, they're not bothering with much time scouting the Colts.
"Not much," Fox said. "We're still only the second week into it and we're still installing offense, defense, special teams for the season. Until it gets around that third preseason game do you really start spending time on them. This week we are still installing schemes for the season." ...
Fox is always walking around chatting with players during practice, but he was out there like he was running for office Tuesday. Maybe it's because he was wearing a microphone, as NFL Films was taping practice for a future show. Fox ditched the wireless mike he had under his shirt near the end of the session, before he addressed the team.