Michael Oher’s future in Carolina remains uncertain as the Panthers prepare for a mandatory three-day minicamp beginning Tuesday.
The team’s starting left tackle during its Super Bowl season in 2015 has not had any contact with the Panthers in more than a month, making it unclear if he will attend the camp.
Attempts to reach Oher — the subject of the movie “The Blind Side” — were unsuccessful and his agent Drew Rosenhaus declined comment on his client’s situation.
Oher’s whereabouts is just one of several story lines entering minicamp.
Quarterback Cam Newton was expected to begin throwing this week but the Panthers announced Monday night that won’t happen until next week. Rookie running back and first-round draft pick Christian McCaffrey will rejoin the team Thursday after Stanford’s final exams are complete, the team said. And free agent pickup Julius Peppers could be back on the field after the team rested the 37-year-old free agent for most of OTAs.
But Oher’s situation is clearly the most compelling.
His status with the team has been a rollercoaster ride since he suffered a head injury last September and was placed in the league’s concussion protocol. He hasn’t played since, missing the last 13 games in 2016 and remains in the protocol eight months later.
General manager Dave Gettleman flew to Nashville, Tennessee, to meet with Oher over lunch on May 5. Oher followed up with Gettleman for a few days, but the team said Oher has not communicated with Carolina’s front office since.
On Thursday night a cryptic message was posted on Oher’s Instagram account with a picture of 10 prescription pill bottles along with the words “all for the brain smh (shaking my head).”
The post was quickly deleted from Instagram.
The Panthers responded by saying they’re unsure if Oher posted the photo and message since they’ve not been in contact with him, but Gettleman reiterated that Oher’s health and safety is the team’s top priority.
The 31-year-old Oher, who won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens earlier in his career, is also dealing with accusations that he assaulted an Uber driver over a disagreement of a fare. He has a trial date set for July 7 in Nashville.
Gettleman said through the team that “our No. 1 priority is a healthy Michael Oher. This is not about football, this is about Michael.”
Still, it appears the Panthers are preparing to move on from Oher.
They signed free agent left tackle Matt Kalil to a five-year, $55 million contract this offseason that included $24 million in guaranteed money with the plan being to move Oher to right tackle.
However, since then the Panthers drafted second-round pick Taylor Moton from Western Michigan to compete for the starting right tackle spot with former third-round draft pick Daryl Williams.
Oher has two years remaining on a three-year, $21.6 million contract extension he signed shortly after the Super Bowl, so it’s hard to imagine him simply walking away.
This season Oher is set to make $4.5 million, including a $2 million bonus if he makes the roster and another $250,000 workout bonus. The Panthers potentially could save millions under the NFL’s salary cap if they reach an injury settlement with Oher.