Panthers DTs Kemoeatu, Lewis miss practice

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers were without both starting defensive tackles at practice Wednesday, going into their regular-season finale against the league's top offense.

Maake Kemoeatu, who missed last Sunday's loss to the New York Giants with a sprained right ankle, rode a stationary bike during the workout. Damione Lewis, who injured his shoulder against the Giants, also sat out.

Maake Kemoeatu, DT
Height: 6-5

Weight: 345

Tackles: 36

Tackles: 0.0

Forced fumbles: 1

Damione Lewis, DT
Height: 6-2

Weight: 301

Tackles: 43

Sacks: 3.5

Forced fumbles: 1

That could leave the Panthers with Darwin Walker and rookie Nick Hayden as the starters on Sunday against high-scoring New Orleans in a game Carolina (11-4) needs to win to secure the No. 2 seed in the NFC and a first-round bye in the playoffs.

Kemoeatu said his injury involves cartilage between his ankle and Achilles' tendon.

"I think it might be ready for Sunday," he said. "We're not sure yet but we're working on it. It's a lot better than it was last week."

The Panthers desperately want Kemoeatu back. The Giants rushed for 301 yards in their 34-28 overtime win last Sunday, taking advantage of the Panthers' problems up front. Backup defensive tackle Gary Gibson was hampered by a broken hand in that game, and was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.

The Panthers filled the roster spot by signing defensive tackle J'Vonne Parker, who had been on Atlanta's practice squad. Hayden was signed off the Panthers' practice squad Saturday.

"Just missing one game, I'm kind of hungry, man," Kemoeatu said. "With what we have on the line and going to the playoffs, I'm ready to get back on the field and play."

Starting receiver Muhsin Muhammad (foot) and tight end Jeff King (knee) also missed practice Wednesday.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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