Jon Beason may be at end of his career

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There comes a time in every NFL player's life when he no longer can perform to the level that made him special because of age or injury and it is time to accept a lesser role -- maybe even step aside altogether.

That time may be coming for Carolina Panthers linebacker Jon Beason.

The three-time Pro Bowl selection, trying to return from microfracture knee surgery during the offseason, played only one snap in Sunday's 38-0 victory over the New York Giants.

Head coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott are non-committal about how much starting or playing time Beason will get moving forward, giving the standard "we're going to put the people on the field that give us the best opportunity to win.''

Beason doesn't give the Panthers (1-2) that now. If anything, he's been a liability.

In the opener, he failed to make a fourth-quarter tackle he normally makes in his sleep. That allowed Seattle to get out of a hole and run out the clock for a 12-7 victory.

In a 24-23 loss to Buffalo he gave up five catches for 112 yards, including a 45-yarder to Stevie Johnson on which 35 yards came after the catch.

That his replacement, Chase Blackburn, played well against the Giants only makes Beason appear more expendable. That the weakside linebacker position doesn't have to be on the field for 40 or 50 plays in this scheme plays a factor as well.

In his prime, Beason was a beast. He led the team in tackles with 140 as a rookie in 2007 and was runner-up for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

He made his first Pro Bowl in his second season, recording 138 tackles and three interceptions. He continued at that pace until 2011 when his season ended early with a torn left Achilles tendon.

He's never been quite the same.

Given his play so far, Beason may be taking up a roster spot that could be better used on a younger player that could at least contribute on special teams. You can't ask a player of Beason's credentials to play special teams.

Only time will tell. The bye week comes at a good time for the 28-year-old from Florida. With the rest he had against the Giants he'll basically get two weeks off.

Maybe when the Panthers resume play on Oct. 6 at Arizona, Beason will have found that extra step he's been missing.

Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly insists his teammate, whether as a starter or a backup, remains an asset.

"He loves playing football,'' said Kuechly, who fills the position where Beason once starred. "That's what he does. He handled [Sunday] well. He was very helpful on the sideline. He gave us some feedback and did a good.

"When you have depth, it allows you to move pieces around.''

Beason isn't ready to talk about the present or the future. Approached on Wednesday he politely said, "Got nothing for you today.''

Then he disappeared, smiling all the way.

Regardless of what his future holds, Beason will handle it with dignity. He'll be respected for that just as much as he was respected for his performance when he was at the top of his game.

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