CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The long wait is almost over for David Gettis.
The Panthers third-year wide receiver said he's been cleared to return to practice Monday following a lengthy layoff.
Gettis spent the first six weeks of the NFL season on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list with a hamstring injury after missing all of last season recovering from a torn ACL in his knee. Under NFL rules, Gettis can return from the PUP list and begin practicing Monday and Carolina general manager Marty Hurney will have a three week window to activate him to the 53-man roster.
The Panthers have a bye this weekend.
They host the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 21.
Gettis said he's "100 percent and ready to go" and eager to make an impact for the Panthers.
A sixth-round draft pick out of Baylor, Gettis started 15 games as a rookie for the Panthers in 2010 playing alongside Steve Smith. He caught 37 passes for 508 yards receiving and three touchdowns.
"It's been a long time and I'm very excited and very, very pumped to get back on the field," Gettis said.
Gettis was expected to battle last year with Brandon LaFell for the starting wide receiver spot opposite Smith. However, he felt his knee buckle while running a route in training camp that summer and medical tests confirmed a receiver's worst fears — a torn ACL.
Given the year layoff, the Panthers figured Gettis would be ready for this training camp this year and had pegged him as the team's No. 3 receiver, but hamstring injuries intervened and sidelined him for all of camp.
They wound up moving him to the PUP list. That bought Gettis six weeks to recover.
He said he doesn't have any lingering issues with his hamstring and no longer wears a knee brace and this is the best he's felt since before tearing his ACL.
When he returns he'll be competing for playing time with current No. 3 receiver Louis Murphy, Kealoha Pilares and Armanti Edwards.
Gettis isn't sure what to expect when he's activated to the 53-man roster.
"I just want to get back on the field and even if it's a small role I'm ready to contribute in some way," Gettis said. "They want to see what I can do when I get back and they aren't going to put me in a position to fail."
The Panthers could use some help on offense — they rank a disappointing 22nd in the league after finishing seventh last year — and Gettis is a player who gives them a solid deep threat. His 88-yard touchdown reception against Baltimore in 2010 is the third-longest receptions in franchise history.
"Whether it's in the run-blocking game or someone to stretch the field, that's what they brought me in here for, so that's my job," Gettis said. "I've been training really hard to get back to that."
When Gettis does return he'll have some measure of a learning curve.
While he's observed offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski's system from the sidelines, he's never actually played in it.
"They are going to put me in a position where I can help," Gettis said.
Steve Smith said Gettis has the talent to help, but said he has to prove he can on the field.
"I don't know how much of an impact he'll have," Smith said. "I'm not sure. He hasn't played in this offense, so time will tell what Gettis will bring to the table. We're expecting him back we'll welcome him back, but at the same time it's going to take some time to get in competition shape. You can get in conditioning shape, but when you have guys pushing you around you have to get used to that."
Said Gettis: "I'll do whatever they ask of me. I just want to get back on the field."