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Panthers DTs Kemoeatu, Lewis should play Saturday; Otah OK, too

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The Carolina Panthers should have starting defensive tackles Maake Kemoeatu and Damione Lewis back for Saturday's NFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Arizona Cardinals.

Kemoeatu, Lewis and right offensive tackle Jeff Otah practiced Wednesday after being sidelined by injuries late in the regular season.

"We had a little hiatus, but we got them back. That was a good reason for the bye," Panthers coach John Fox said. "We should be at full strength."

The Panthers' only injury concern is right guard Geoff Hangartner. He missed practice with a sprained left ankle and could miss Saturday's game.

Hangartner and Jeremy Bridges have split time at right guard after Keydrick Vincent was placed on injured reserve last month with a groin injury. Bridges is expected to start Saturday.

Kemoeatu left in the second half of Carolina's Dec. 14 victory over the Denver Broncos and missed the next two games, leaving the Panthers without their top run stuffer. That helped the New York Giants rush for 301 yards in an overtime victory that prevented Carolina from securing the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

"I feel 100 percent, and I'm ready to go," Kemoeatu said.

Lewis injured his shoulder during the second half of the Dec. 21 game against the Giants and missed the regular-season finale at New Orleans.

The Panthers beat the Saints to secure the No. 2 seed and a bye, giving the pair an extra week to recuperate. Lewis acknowledged he probably wouldn't have been able to play in a first-round game last weekend.

"If we had to go, I would have tried my best to," Lewis said. "But I don't know if I could have."

Otah's return will help stabilize the offensive line. The rookie left in the second half against the Saints after bruising his toe. With Hangartner also sidelined, the Panthers had to shuffle the line, moving Jordan Gross from left tackle to right tackle.

"It feels good to get back out there," Otah said. "I'm happy we had that bye week so I had a chance to get back to 100 percent."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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