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Friday, July 20, 2012

DT Neblett Suspended

        Andre Neblett, member of the 2010 and 2011 teams, was suspended for four games after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance.  Of course, the type of substance wasn’t released.
        The 6’0, 305 lb Neblett (a 45 game starter for Temple) was a rare undrafted Free Agent rookie to make a John Fox squad in 2010, and started getting playing time late in the year.  Neblett played in 19 games over that span, starting four  late in 2011.  Those four games bookended the end of Sione Fua’s season before getting hurt in the Buccaneers game himself.  A squatty run defender, Neblett plays primarily nose tackle but does have enough of a burst to shoot gaps occasionally.
        Neblett isn’t more than a reserve on this squad, and he’s not better than the average replacement.  He remained more or less even with Frank Kearse late in the year, the other late-season starter and the guy whom he’d have to fight for a job if Carolina does continue to invest time in both.  Either would fight for the 4th job at DT, while neither would play significant time – the 4th DT isn’t really even guaranteed to dress on game day.   A 5th DT is more or less based on merit – a 9th DL isn’t out of line for a team to keep, generally the best remaining player outside a two-deep depth chart – but that player rarely plays outside of injury or extreme need.
        What it does hurt, of course, is competitiveness.  Neblett and Kearse both did an admirable job as starters given that neither were intended to be, and and both were a part of the defenses that Ron Rivera cited were improving late in the year.
       Neblett would continue to get to fight for his job, with Kearse and not much else (the team has UCLA rookie Nate Chandler on roster as well, and that’s about it).  With about six weeks before the season starts (and his suspension would start), he’s got a long road to earn that position.   He may get some relief, as he wouldn’t be cut opening week if worthy (doesn’t count against the 53 man roster, until the suspension lifts at the start of week 5), but doesn’t get to interact with the team over that period.  If the team wants to reinstate him, they could hold him until week 5 and make that decision then.
        It doesn’t endear Neblett to the team to be caught doing whatever he did, and if he had the higher line to the team’s 4th DT job before, it’s probably more in peril than before.
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