Second Panthers player opts out of 2020 season due to pandemic

CHARLOTTE — Carolina Panthers edge rusher Christian Miller has elected to opt-out of the 2020 season, the team announced Monday morning.

A 2019 fourth-round pick out of Alabama, Miller played in seven games last year. He had a pair of sacks in the victory over the Cardinals in Week 3, but after he injured his ankle two weeks later against the Jaguars, Miller played just 25 snaps the rest of the season.

Miller is the second Panthers’ player to opt-out of the season. Undrafted rookie linebacker Jordan Mack opted out last week.

The two players are among the latest NFL players to opt-out of the upcoming season as concerns about COVID-19 grow.

Mack joined the Panthers as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Virginia this offseason. Because the rookie did not hear his name called in the 2020 NFL Draft, he is not eligible to receive a stipend after opting out. Drafted players are eligible to receive a stipend of $150,000-$350,000.

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Mack finished his career at Virginia on the sideline, missing the Orange Bowl after being injured. He was a captain his senior season and finished with 289 career tackles, 14.5 sacks, 25.5 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles. He was a Campbell Trophy finalist and named third-team All-ACC.

At least 25 NFL players have opted out of the upcoming season. Some are choosing not to play because of health issues. Six of the 25 players opting out are New England Patriots.

Across the league, 21 players have tested positive since reporting to training camps, and more than 100 tested positive during the off-season.

NFL players have until Aug. 3 to opt-out of the upcoming season.

“Everyone needs to do what they have to do”

Channel 9 sports anchor Matt Harris spoke with new Panthers head coach Matt Rhule on Wednesday about players opting out of the season and his message to the team.

Rhule said he doesn’t know if any more of his players plan to opt-out of the 2020 season due to concerns related to COVID-19, calling it a deeply personal decision.

“My message is very simple,” the coach said. “Everyone needs to do what they have to do, but at the same time we can all work together to make sure we keep each other really safe.”

Rhule knows each of his players has a different set of circumstances that impacts their decision of whether or not to play in 2020.

“You have to make a decision between letting people down and your family, right?” he said. “And I always want our players to err on the side of their families and their health. And again, that’s personal to the players, personal to the coaches -- everyone has to do what’s right for them.”

All players and coaches are required to wear masks inside team facilities. As rookies take the field outside, they are not wearing masks. Some coaches are wearing masks, others are wearing face shields.

Rhule said they're experimenting with what works best for communication, keeping health and safety the top priority.

“I’ve tried a couple of different things on the field so far in two days just trying to find that sweet spot of, ‘Hey, how can I best communicate?’ Especially when it’s 95 degrees, and go from there. But all of our players, we gave them masks and wraps and they’ve been really good about covering,” he said.

The new coach said the big picture moving forward with training camp and playing safely this season boils down to accountability.

“Two things that we can control are wearing masks and then what we do on our off time,” he said. “If we all as a team, as an organization, can make the best decisions possible, we give ourselves the best chance.”

Punter Michael Palardy out for season, Panthers make several roster moves

As training camp begins, the Panthers have made several roster moves, including placing punter Michael Palardy on the reserve/non-football injury list to end his season.

Palardy tore his ACL this offseason and will be out for all of 2020. Carolina signed undrafted rookie Joseph Charlton to handle punting duties last week. Palardy joined the Panthers midway through the 2016 season and spent the past three years in the full-time role after winning a training camp battle with Andy Lee in 2017.

Offensive lineman Greg Little (knee) will start camp on the active/physically unable to perform list. The active/PUP list indicates a player has not yet passed his physical, but Little's absence is not expected to be long-term.

Undrafted rookie offensive lineman Branden Bowen will begin camp on the active/reserve list with a non-football illness.Finally, the Panthers waived offensive lineman Juwann Bushell-Beatty. He played for the XFL’s St. Louis Battlehawks and Houston Renegades before the league’s season was canceled in March.

( contributed to this article.)