As the Carolina Panthers get set to take on what Greg Hardy thinks is an inferior NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons squad this weekend, they're preparing without a handful of players.
The Panthers' official Twitter account reported Thursday that linebacker James Anderson, tight end Jeff Byers and safety Charles Godfrey all skipped practice with back injuries, defensive tackle Dwan Edwards missed with a hurt wrist, wide receiver Brandon LaFell missed with a toe injury and running back Jonathan Stewart was held out with an injured ankle.
Coach Ron Rivera said Stewart and LaFell were the least likely of the group to play Sunday, but was hopeful they'd recover by then.
Some good news for Panthers fans is that tight end Greg Olsen returned to the practice field on Thursday after sitting out Wednesday's session with a hurt back. Olsen had one of his best games of the season when the Panthers lost earlier in the year to Atlanta on Sept. 30. He caught seven passes for 89 yards and a touchdown, so having him in the fold could be pivotal to the Panthers' hopes of backing up Hardy's proclamations.
The Panthers and Falcons kick off at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. The game will be televised by FOX.