Michael Oher ruled out, forcing Panthers to shuffle line

ByDavid Newton ESPN logo
Friday, September 30, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers starting left tackle Michael Oher has entered the concussion protocol and will miss Sunday's game at Atlanta.

"At the end of the week it's a big deal, because for the most part you've game-planned already,'' coach Ron Rivera said following practice.

Rivera said he was on his way to a meeting Friday when head trainer Ryan Vermillion notified him that Oher was experiencing symptoms of a concussion. He wasn't sure when Oher received a blow to the head that could have caused the symptoms, or if it was a non-football injury.

"He sat him down and did whatever the first steps of the protocol are and contacted the doctors,'' Rivera said of Vermillion. "He came back and told me he was in the protocol.

"There's no way you could pass the protocol in one day, a day in a half. He's got to go through the whole process."

That process typically takes at least a week.

Rivera said the coaches will meet to discuss their options to replace Oher, whose life and football career was chronicled in the 2009 movie "The Blind Side."

The Panthers potentially could move right tackle Mike Remmers to the left side, and put Daryl Williams on the right. They also could leave Remmers on the right side and start Donald Hawkins or Williams on the left. Hawkins, a second-year player out of the University of Texas, has yet to start in the NFL.

"But the nice thing, one thing we do is the young guys get a lot of reps, so it's not like these guys haven't been working on these things," Rivera said.

Rivera said much of what Carolina does will depend on adjustments offensive coordinator Mike Shula makes in the game plan with Oher out.

Pressure on quarterback Cam Newton has been an issue during a 1-2 start for the defending NFC champions. He was sacked eight times and pressured 17 in Sunday's loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Oher gave up two sacks and five hurries, according to Pro Football Focus.

Newton is being sacked on 9.9 percent of his dropbacks, which would be the highest rate of his career. The Falcons, however, have pressured the quarterback only 17 percent on dropbacks, the third-lowest rate in the NFL.

Since the start of last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, Atlanta has the lowest rate (22 percent) of pressure on dropbacks.

"For the most part, we've got the game plan in,'' Rivera said. "Mike and his guys will talk about the combination of guys, what works best with whatever combination we decide to go with."

The Panthers spent much of the offseason trying to improve their depth on the line. When asked how comfortable he is with the improvements, Rivera said, "We'll find out."

"We feel pretty good about who we have," he added. "We kept four extra guys, two tackles, a guard and center combination. We'll see."