T he Panthers promised an update on Kelvin Benjamin’s MRI sometime Monday afternoon. At 3:3o, word came head coach Ron Rivera would address the media.
If the MRI was negative and everything was a-ok, usually a member of the PR team would roll through with the news, or they’d drop an email. So there was a good amount of tension in the room when Rivera walked in.
Then he began: “Well, we got a bit of good news.”
Rivera further explained to reporters, who shared the update with paranoid Panthers fans glued to Twitter, that Benjamin suffered a bone bruise after bumping knees with a teammate during Sunday’s practice.
“There is nothing structurally wrong. That’s probably the biggest thing I can tell you right now,” Rivera said.
It’s unclear when Benjamin will return to practice, but it’s more of a day-to-day thing than week-to-week.
“It’s going to be a few days before the swelling’s out and that area has calmed down, and then back onto the field in a matter of time,” Rivera said.
Early Sunday night, Benjamin was zipping around the Wofford campus on a small motorbike. His left knee was wrapped, but he was in good spirits, and using his legs to push off the ground.
A couple hours earlier, he banged knees with another player. Benjamin kept going and finished practice. He then signed autographs.
So while the team’s first-round pick wasn’t at Monday’s practice, and instead in Charlotte undergoing an MRI, “precautionary” was the popular word of the morning.
“We want to be smart with it,” Rivera said after practice. ““It’s strictly precautionary. He came in this morning and (head trainer Ryan Vermillion) just wanted to be careful with him.”
While the Panthers dodged a worse-case scenario, Benjamin’s absence is another early setback for an offense that can ill afford many more. They’re dealing with quarterback Cam Newton’s return from ankle surgery, Jonathan Stewart’s hamstring injury, a new receiving corps, and it’s not like Benjamin can afford to miss too many practices.
“Young guys need as many reps and they can get,” Rivera said. “There’s an old saying, ‘If you can get 5,000 reps you can be ready to play.’ So we want to get him as many as we can.”