Nearly five months to the day Michael Oher was suddenly ruled out of the Carolina Panthers' Week 4 trip to Atlanta, the left tackle remains in the NFL's concussion protocol.
Oher's status was confirmed Wednesday by general manager Dave Gettleman at the combine in Indianapolis.
When asked if the Panthers will have to go through the early part of the offseason assuming Oher won't be available in 2017, Gettleman said, "You can't deny what's going on.
"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. I can't give you anything more than that."
That plan, according to sources, includes interest in left tackle Matt Kalil, who's set to become a free agent on March 9.
The younger brother of Panthers center Ryan Kalil, Matt Kalil has been a disappointment after the Vikings took him with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft. But the Panthers believe Kalil can be more than serviceable with a change of scenery.
The younger Kalil, who made 66 consecutive starts to start his career, missed 14 games in 2016 with a hip injury.
Another part of the Panthers' plan is to keep holding out hope that Oher will be able to return and then slide over to the right side of the line. If he can't, the backup plan would be Daryl Williams, who started 10 games at right tackle this past season. The Panthers aren't expected to re-sign upcoming free agent Mike Remmers.
What makes free agency even more urgent for the Panthers is the league-wide belief that the upcoming draft class lacks left tackle prospects. If Carolina doesn't land Kalil, other options could include experienced starters like Andrew Whitworth, Russell Okung and Ryan Clady.
"I'm not going to lie, you've got to entertain it, of course," Gettleman said when asked if Oher's status meant the Panthers would have to sign a free agent left tackle.
"Free agency is to set up the draft and I want to put us back in that spot."