Jason Peter's reputation as a feisty practice player was one reason the Carolina Panthers drafted him. Now, it's landed him on the team's already crowded injury report.
Peter, a defensive end taken with the 14th overall selection in April's draft, was fitted with a cast on his right hand Wednesday after a fight in practice left him with a broken bone.
"I'll talk to Jason just about being smart," coach Dom Capers said. "That was one of the reasons that we liked Jason -- because of his competitiveness. He brings a real competitive element and toughness to the defense. But we want to see it on Sunday afternoons. We don't want to take a chance."
It's too late for that. Peter, the Panthers' starting left defensive end, punched reserve offensive lineman Steve Scifres in the head during a scuffle. Scifres was wearing his helmet at the time.
"The helmet's going to win," Capers said.
Peter finished practice, but X-rays later showed a break in the fourth metacarpal bone in his right hand. Capers said Peter would be listed as probable for Sunday's game against New Orleans ad that the cast unlikely would severely limit his ability to grasp.
Capers said the Panthers average about one scuffle per week in practice.
"Those kinds of things happen, but you've got to use good judgment," Capers said. "Tempers flare, but breaking your hand against somebody's helmet is certainly not something we condone."
What made it more painful was that it came as the Panthers are trying to break out of their 0-7 start and cope with the most wide-reaching rash of injuries in the club's 3 1/2 seasons. Nine players are on injured reserve and three more are listed as either out or doubtful for Sunday, a situation that has prompted Carolina to repeatedly shuffle its offensive and defensive lines and its secondary.
Wednesday's scuffle was hardly the first for Peter, who said that when he was at Nebraska and practices would bog down, he often would start a scrape to spark some intensity. True to form, six days after the Panthers drafted him, Peter got into a scuffle with reserve offensive lineman Jamie Wilson in his first workout as a pro.
After missing all of training camp because of a contract holdout, Peter quickly established himself because of his speed and strength.
He has started the past four games, and in last week's 30-14 loss to Buffalo, Peter was the only Carolina player who was able to consistently get to Bills quarterback Doug Flutie. Peter had four pressures, including one where he had his arms wrapped around the quarterback's ankles, leading to Flutie's lone interception of the game.
"He was making progress," Capers said of Peter. "We don't want to retard that progress and have foolishness set him back."
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