Updated: Sunday August 22, 2004 5:26PM





SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) -- Carolina Panthers defensive end Kavika Pittman will miss the entire season after tearing a ligament in his left knee, the same injury that sidelined him most of last year.

He will have surgery Monday and begin rehabilitation in a few weeks, the team said Sunday. An MRI exam showed he tore his anterior cruciate ligament again on the first play of practice Saturday.

"I went out there and told myself, 'I'm about to give [offensive tackle] Melvin Tuten the business,' " Pittman said. "Instead, the knee gave me the business. But it's all right. I'm in good spirits and I'll be back."

Pittman first tore the ACL in his left knee during the second game of the 2003 regular season when he took a chop block from Tampa Bay receiver Keenan McCardell.

"You feel bad for the guy," head coach John Fox said. "He has tried and has worked very hard this offseason to get back. To have that happen is obviously very disappointing for him and us."

Pittman spent all of last season rehabbing and got back on the field in minicamp. However, he hyperextended the knee and partially tore the ligament during the June camp. Pittman missed the first three weeks of training camp, but returned to practice Saturday after he was advised it was safe to play with a knee brace.

On his first play back, Pittman felt the knee give out even though there was no contact. Pittman left the field but didn't realize the severity of the injury until after the MRI.

"I planted on it and when I pushed off it was at a funny angle and it just gave out," Pittman said.

Pittman, a nine-year NFL veteran, had hoped to earn a spot in the defensive line rotation behind starter Julius Peppers at right defensive end. Instead, it appears Kemp Rasmussen will win that role by default for the second straight season.

The 32-year-old Pittman has played in 108 games during his career and has 18 sacks. He was cut by Denver before the 2002 season and signed by the Panthers because of his ability to stop the run.


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