CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith will return to practice Sunday and expects to play in the Sept. 9 season opener at Tampa Bay.
Carolina coach Ron Rivera said on Wednesday that Smith is “improving” after developing a foot infection earlier in the week, he will not play in the Panthers’ preseason finale Thursday at Pittsburgh.
Linebacker Jon Beason, offensive lineman Jordan Gross, running back Jonathan Stewart and fullback Mike Tolbert also have been ruled out for Thursday.
Around the league
BENGALS: Cincinnati signed center Jeff Faine to replace the injured Kyle Cook, who will miss considerable time — and possibly the season — because of injury. Faine, 31, started 15 games for Tampa Bay last season. He was released March 14 and has been a free agent.
BRONCOS: Rookie quarterback Brock Osweiler, trying to win the job as Peyton Manning’s backup, will split snaps with Caleb Hanie and perhaps Adam Weber when Denver visits Arizona on Thursday. Osweiler appeared to be ahead of Hanie two weeks ago, but he couldn’t move the Broncos’ backups against Seattle and San Francisco.
TITANS: Tennessee wide receiver Kenny Britt joined the active roster Wednesday, allowing him to take part in any practice or session the Titans might have before Thursday night’s preseason finale against New Orleans. Brtitt has been recovering from his third knee surgery since tearing his right ACL last September.
49ERS: San Francisco signed defensive tackle Matthew Masifilo to a two-year contract and waived center Chase Beeler. Masifilo originally signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent out of Stanford in May. He was released Monday, but brought back two days later.
RAIDERS: Oakland claimed defensive back Coye Francies on waivers from Seattle. Francies was waived by the Seahawks two days ago. He played in eight games with Cleveland from 2009-10 and also has experience as a kick returner. The Raiders need help in that area with wide receivers Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford nursing injuries.
FALCONS: Chris Redman, who spent the past four seasons as Atlanta’s No. 2 quarterback, was released Tuesday. The Falcons signed Luke McCown, who spent the past three seasons with Jacksonville, making two starts among his eight appearances.
CARDINALS: D’Anthony Batiste is shifting to left tackle and and rookie Bobby Massie is moving to right tackle as Arizona is working to stabilize a shaky offensive line since the loss of Levi Brown to a season-ending injury. Batiste has appeared in 22 NFL games, four of them last season with the Cardinals. His only starts were four games in 2007 with Atlanta.
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