Stephon Gilmore's injured quad still isn't fully healed. So, how much will the Carolina Panthers cornerback play against the New England Patriots on Sunday?
Turns out you just need to ask his head coach.
Matt Rhule revealed Thursday that Carolina plans to use Gilmore mostly in third-down situations against his former club.
"I think playing just on third down is really kind of where we are right now," Rhule told reporters, via ESPN's Mike Reiss. "Then as we move down the line, maybe that will continue to grow. It will just depend on how he does health-wise."
Well, there you have it.
Gilmore played 17 defensive snaps in his Panthers debut against the Atlanta Falcons last Sunday, snagging an interception on an underthrown ball intended for Kyle Pitts. That game was Gilmore's first since Week 15 of the 2020 season, though, and it sounds like he still needs more time to ramp up to full speed.
Gilmore is two seasons removed from winning NFL Defensive Player of the Year with the Patriots in 2019 and was solid in 2020 before a quad injury cut his season short. The 31-year-old certainly has the respect of his former New England teammates, too: Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers insisted he'll need to be on his "A-game" against Gilmore this week.
If the Panthers are limiting the 31-year-old to third downs, though, that's a break for the Patriots -- especially if they know when Gilmore will be on or off the field and can plan accordingly.
When Gilmore is on the field, expect him to be out for revenge: The five-time Pro Bowler said this week he wasn't happy with how the Patriots handled his quad injury situation and admitted he'll have "a lot of extra" motivation facing his former ballclub.