The winless Carolina Panthers already are making do without their most productive wide receiver. Now they face the possibility of losing their tight end as well.
Wesley Walls, a Pro Bowl starter after each of the last two seasons, had his left forearm placed in a cast Monday after X-rays detected a small fracture just below his wrist.
Walls was injured while diving for a pass in the third quarter of Sunday's 16-13 loss to Tampa Bay. He finished the game, but was ineffective the rest of the way in Carolina's eighth consecutive loss, including six this year.
Coach Dom Capers said Walls likely would miss at least two days of practice this week and would be listed as questionable for Sunday's home game against Buffalo (3-3).
Capers said the cast limits the movement in Walls' wrist, but does not restrict his thumb, leading the Panthers to hold out hope of him playing with the injury.
"He'll be able to grasp with it," Capers said. "So it will just be a matter of soreness."
Walls is the latest casualty in what already was the most wide-reaching rash of injuries in the franchise's three-plus seasons. Rae Carruth, Carolina's leading wide receiver last year as a rookie, has been sidelined since the season opener with a broken foot and is likely to miss at least the next two weeks. Carolina also has had to shuffle its secndary and offensive line because of numerous injuries in those areas.
Sean Gilbert, the defensive end the Panthers acquired in the off-season for two first-round draft picks and a seven-year, $46.5 million contract, was also injured Sunday. Gilbert, slowed by a calf strain, will be limited in practice this week but should be able to play against the Bills, Capers said.
The lack of depth created by Carolina's injuries has become especially evident late in games, when the Panthers have been hampered by execution problems on a weekly basis. On Sunday, for example, they squandered a 10-point lead, the biggest margin they have ever surrendered in the fourth quarter.
"Looking at the films today just re-emphasized how sick it was to lose that game, being up 13-3 in the fourth," quarterback Steve Beuerlein said. "We should have been up 17-3 if we punch it in from the 1-yard line. But shoulda, coulda, woulda -- you know? We just didn't do it, and it tears you apart."
Beuerlein said Carolina's failure to win a game this season presents a risk of players losing interest and the will to keep fighting. That hasn't happened so far, he said.
"You can only find so many cliches or motivational phrases to fire you up," he said. "Sooner or later, guys get tired of hearing the same stuff over and over. You just hope that we've got enough character and enough guys who realize the only way to get through it is to fight through it. And I think we're going to do that. I talked to a lot of the guys today, and everybody's still in it."
© 1998 SportsLine USA, Inc. All rights reserved