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 CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -Ryne Robinson has ditched the brace, but Travelle Wharton is taking no more chances with his knees.
``I'm double bracing it from here on out,'' the Carolina Panthers left guard said this week. ``The braces are comfortable after you start wearing them.''
The Panthers hope their mammoth lineman and speedy kick returner will be healthy enough following knee injuries to play in Sunday's game against Atlanta - and help jump-start an offense that has managed four touchdowns in three games.
``Anytime you have a setback like we had on July 31 it's devastating, especially for my confidence,'' Robinson said of being sidelined nearly two months. ``I thought I was ready to go for the season and I thought everything was moving along good.''
, listed as questionable, has seen his sprained left knee progress to where he ditched his brace and practiced full go this week.
Robinson's absence has caused problems with starting field position. The Panthers rank 26th in kickoff return average.
Wharton could only watch last week when replacement Geoff Hangartner struggled and Jake Delhomme was sacked five times in Carolina's first loss, 20-10 at Minnesota.
``I'm just getting back with those guys and making our calls and forming a unit that we played with during training camp,'' Wharton said. ``So that's the main focus this week, to get back on track with those guys.''
After managing only 47 yards rushing against the Vikings, the Panthers need a better performance Sunday against the Falcons and sacks leader John Abraham.
For Wharton, he's just happy to be back after he feared he suffered another serious injury when a player rolled onto the back of his knee on a field-goal attempt in the first half of the season opener in San Diego.
Wharton tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the 2006 opener, wiping out his season.
``First game of the year, you work so hard to get into the football season, and when you feel the knee pain it's like, 'Oh, I hope it's not bad.' As time went on it's not as serious as the one before, so that was a relief.''
ay on a six-year, $36 million deal in the offseason. They moved him from tackle to guard in an offensive line overhaul.
At 6-foot-4 and 312 pounds, Wharton is gigantic, but also has surprising speed and athleticism.
``It is a big boost. It's evident by what we signed him to in the offseason,'' Delhomme said. ``He's a very steady player and a very solid football player.''
While Robinson got off to a slow start in the return game as a rookie last season, he came on late in the year, and the Panthers have struggled finding a replacement. Running back Jonathan Stewart has been returning kickoffs, and newly signed Mark Jones has returned punts.
``I feel like I'm there,'' Robinson said. ``I feel like I can go this week.''
And so does Wharton, bulky braces and all.
``Just getting used to everything on my knee,'' Wharton said. ``That's a big thing.''
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