CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Carolina Panthers can’t seem to catch a break these days.
The Panthers announced they placed three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Jon Beason on injured reserve Wednesday with knee and shoulder issues.
Beason, 27, will have surgery next week to repair cartilage damage in his right knee and a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
Beason has only played in five games since receiving a five-year, $51.5 million contract extension in 2011 that included $25 million in guaranteed money. He missed 15 games last year with a torn Achilles in his left leg.
The Panthers claimed cornerback James Dockery off waivers from Cleveland to replace Beason on the 53-man roster. Dockery joined the Panthers at practice Wednesday.
These are tough times for the Panthers.
In the past two weeks, they’ve lost center Ryan Kalil, cornerback Chris Gamble and Beason to season-ending injuries and general manager Marty Hurney was fired. Adding to the frustration, they’ve lost four straight games and have the worst record in the NFC at 1-5 entering Sunday’s game at Chicago.
The move doesn’t come as a surprise as Beason has missed the last two games with injuries and Rivera hinted he might be headed to IR.
Coach Ron Rivera said Luke Kuechly, the team’s first-round draft pick, will continue to fill in at middle linebacker.
Kuechly started the season at weak side linebacker, but moved to middle linebacker the last two games with Beason out. Kuechly has 26 tackles in his first two starts in the middle along with an interception and a fumble recovery.
“To me I’ve learned that Luke is better suited as a middle linebacker,” Rivera said. “He has the skill. He can play outside too but he has a natural feel and some natural leadership instincts as far as being in the middle. That is probably the best spot for him.”
What that means for Beason’s long-term career in Carolina remains to be seen.
Like Kuechly, Beason also prefers to play middle linebacker.
Beason was unavailable for comment and his agent Drew Rosenhaus did not immediately return phone calls.
If the Panthers were to release Beason this offseason, they’d be on the hook for $15 million against the salary cap, the remaining portion of his signing bonus.
Rivera said Beason originally sprained his knee in Week 3 loss to the New York Giants and tried to play through it.
“It just seemed to bother him more and more and when he got the initial MRI one of the ideas was to rest it and see how it was,” Rivera said. “That’s why he had the last couple of games off. It didn’t get any better so the concern was it was worsening, so the decision was made to do something about it.”
Beason tore his labrum in the New Orleans game and he’s played with it since. Earlier in the week Gamble was placed on injured reserve with a torn labrum in his shoulder, too.
“He’s battled through it the best he can,” Rivera said of Beason.
Kuechly said he has great respect for Beason and that the veteran has played a role in his early success this season.
“Even when he was out, Jon was always real helpful,” Kuechly said. “Every time I came off the field he was giving me tip after tip after tip. He’ll still be around, I’m sure. But his presence will be missed on the field.”