The Panthers terminated the contract of right tackle Jeff Otah on Thursday after he failed his physical. In an unrelated move, the team signed cornerback Nate Ness. The roster stands the maximum of 90 players. Carolina traded Otah to the New York Jets on July 23 for a late-round conditional draft pick, but Otah reverted back to the Panthers on July
31 when he didn't pass a physical in the seven-day window spelled out in the agreement. Otah's health was at the heart of Thursday's move, Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. Otah missed 31 of the Panthers' last 35 games.
"Anytime you let go of a player as talented as Jeff is, it's a hard decision," Hurney said. "But I think after he came back, talking to him and going through the last couple of days, he just doesn't feel like he's gotten over the injuries of the past two seasons and really doesn't know when he'll be ready.
"You don't part with talented players very easily because they're extremely hard to find. Jeff is a very talented player, but to help us, he has to feel like he can be on the field. He's just not at the point where that's the case right now."
Otah, selected by the Panthers in the first round of the 2008 draft, spent the final three games of the 2009 season on injured reserve with a left knee injury. The injury sidelined him for all of 2010, and he played in four of the first six games in 2011 before returning to injured reserve to further rehab the knee. Byron Bell started 12 games in Otah's spot last season. Garry Williams is back from a broken ankle, and the team traded for Bruce Campbell in the offseason.
"We feel like we've got some good young players there," Hurney said. "Our depth is pretty good there, and obviously that plays into the decision."
Ness was added to provide depth at cornerback. Rookie Josh Norman has missed the last two practices with a hamstring injury, and Brandon Hogan missed the last practice with a sore knee.
"We're getting some nicks at corner, so we'll see what he can do," Hurney said. "When they've been on the field, we've felt very good about them, so you want them back on the field to get them as many reps as possible, because they have a lot of learning to do."
Ness has played in eight games with one start over three seasons with the Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks and the St. Louis Rams, where he saw action in four games last year. The Cleveland Browns originally signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent from the University of Arizona.
Photo Courtesy: Jeff Otah, Carolina Panthers