Short-handed Panthers down 11 players for preseason opener

SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Take the NFL's third-youngest team, subtract several key veterans because of injuries, and it leaves Carolina Panthers coach John Fox facing an intriguing preseason opener Thursday at Baltimore.

"There are probably 20-something guys I've never seen take a snap in NFL football," Fox said Wednesday. "You have some of those guys every year from your draft class. We just have a few more this year."

The Panthers' offseason decision to shed veterans and payroll left a trail of inexperience, and training camp has thinned the roster.

Fox said 11 players -- including cornerback Chris Gamble, running back Jonathan Stewart and wide receiver Steve Smith -- won't make the trip to Baltimore. Starters are expected to play the first quarter against the Ravens.

Matt Moore will start at quarterback in Carolina's first game since seven-year starter Jake Delhomme was released. But Fox said he will try to get all four quarterbacks in the game in what will be second-round draft pick and former Notre Dame star Jimmy Clausen's NFL debut.

"It's going to be the first time live since college, so it's going to be fun out there," Clausen said. "Just have a lot of fun and make plays."

Dwayne Jarrett, Kenny Moore and rookie Brandon LaFell are expected to see time with the first team at receiver, with Smith still sidelined because of a broken forearm sustained during a flag football game in June.

Stewart (heel) hasn't practiced since offseason surgery, and Captain Munnerlyn is expected to start at cornerback with Gamble (knee) slowed in camp.

Right tackle Jeff Otah (knee), running back Mike Goodson (ankle), wide receivers Charly Martin (finger) and Trent Guy (hamstring), safety Aaron Francisco (hamstring), linebacker Jordan Senn (shoulder), tackle Garry Williams (shoulder) and linebacker Thomas Davis (knee) also won't play.

Davis' second torn anterior cruciate ligament in a year led Carolina's coaching staff to shuffle the starting spots at linebacker. Jon Beason will start at weakside linebacker against the Ravens after making the Pro Bowl the past two seasons in the middle. Dan Connor will start in Beason's old spot.

The Panthers also will debut a revamped defensive line after five-time Pro Bowl pick Julius Peppers left for the Chicago Bears in free agency and Damione Lewis and Maake Kemoeatu were released.

"I'm looking forward it," Connor said of Carolina's first preseason test. "I think it'll be fun, to see how we are defensively."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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