Michael Oher still in protocol, but Panthers have plan at left tackle

Carolina Panthers general manager Dave Gettleman said on Wednesday that Michael Oher remains in the concussion protocol, but he has a plan in case the left tackle can't play in 2017.

"You can't deny what's going on,'' Gettleman said on Wednesday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. "We're in the unknown, and we're going to move forward.

"We've got a plan, and we'll just see where it goes.''

Gettleman didn't expand on the plan, but he didn't rule out looking at high-profile left tackles such as Andrew Whitworth, Russell Okung and Ryan Clady in free agency.

Free-agent tackle Matt Kalil, the brother of Carolina center Ryan Kalil, also could be targeted at a lower price.

"I'm not going to lie. You've got to entertain it, of course,'' Gettleman said.

That the draft is considered weak at tackle increases the odds Gettleman will use free agency to sign somebody for insurance and depth, regardless of what happens with Oher.

Oher missed the final 13 games last season after being diagnosed with a concussion. Although he has been working out in anticipation of being ready for 2017, he still hasn't been cleared from the protocol.

Oher tweeted on Saturday that he had a "great talk'' about concussions with NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and "he really helped me with my current situation.''

Earnhardt missed the second half of the 2016 race season with a concussion, his second in four years. He was cleared in December and returned to competition for Sunday's Daytona 500.

Oher and Earnhardt ran into each other last year while meeting with a concussion expert in Pittsburgh. Earnhardt, out of respect for Oher's privacy, declined to discuss details of what was said.

"He's a great guy, and I appreciated his tweet over the weekend,'' Earnhardt said. "Being able to connect with other athletes and encourage each other was one of the most rewarding parts of my recovery process.''
Copyright © 2022 ESPN Internet Ventures. All rights reserved.