Injury-wracked Panthers could be without four key players Monday

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers likely will have a makeshift lineup Monday night as they try to avoid an 0-3 start.

Linebacker Na'il Diggs was declared out of the game against the Dallas Cowboys after missing his third consecutive practice Saturday with bruised ribs. Starting strong safety Chris Harris, top fullback Brad Hoover and defensive end Everette Brown also sat out the workout and are listed as doubtful.

The only good news for Carolina in its lengthy injury report: Defensive tackle Nick Hayden practiced and is listed as probable.

Hayden missed the Week 2 loss to the NFC South rival Atlanta Falcons with a bruised left big toe. He is needed because replacement starter Louis Leonard is out for the season after breaking his left ankle against the Falcons.

Hayden started in that game because Maake Kemoeatu ruptured his Achilles' tendon on the first day of training camp. The injuries haven't let up since then.

Landon Johnson or James Anderson will fill in for Diggs at strongside linebacker. Panthers coach John Fox repeated Saturday that Diggs doesn't have a cracked rib, but he hasn't practiced since the Atlanta game.

Quinton Teal would start his third consecutive game in place of Harris, who injured his left knee during practice before the season opener. Harris said he then tweaked the knee during pregame warmups before the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and was a late scratch.

Harris practiced on a limited basis Thursday, but the knee flared up again and he sat out the next two days. The secondary has struggled without him.

"Chris is kind of like that quarterback of the defense," Fox said. "His football character, he's a sharp guy."

Rookie Tony Fiammetta likely will start in place of Hoover, who hasn't practiced since the Atlanta game because of back spasms. Fiammetta, a fourth-round draft pick from Syracuse, dropped the only pass thrown his way in his NFL debut last Sunday.

Brown, a second-round pick out of Florida State, injured his ankle during practice Thursday. His absence would further deplete a struggling defensive line that has managed just two sacks in two games this season.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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