CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- If nothing else, the Carolina Panthers' newest return man should be able to help with the scouting report for the opener.
The Panthers signed Mark Jones on Monday, two days after he was released by San Diego. As Ryne Robinson remains sidelined indefinitely with a sprained left knee, Jones will likely return kickoffs and punts Sunday against his former team, the Chargers.
"When he became available we thought he was a good fit for us," general manager Marty Hurney said.
The Panthers released fellow receiver Dominique Thompson to make room on the 53-man regular-season roster for Jones, Carolina's latest attempt to find a suitable replacement for Robinson.
Jason Carter initially took over when Robinson was injured during the first week of training camp. But Carter tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee in the third preseason game and was lost for the season.
Samie Parker was signed last week after he was cut by Denver, but struggled in the final preseason game at Pittsburgh and was released two days later.
Ricardo Colclough, who never made an impact after he was signed in the offseason, was charged with driving while impaired Saturday and was cut hours later.
The 5-foot-9, former seventh-round pick from Tennessee has averaged 24.8 yards on 18 kickoff returns and 8.7 yards on 117 career punt returns in four seasons with the New York Giant and Tampa Bay.
"He's been very consistent," Hurney said. "We're familiar with him because he returned against us when he was with Tampa. He came off an injury last year and had a very good preseason with San Diego."
The 27-year-old Jones played in only six games last year because of a knee injury and wasn't re-signed by the Buccaneers. He averaged 13 yards per punt return and 24.7 per kickoff return in the preseason for San Diego.
Jones, who has never returned a kickoff or punt for a touchdown, is a lower-priced alternative to other players on the market. Former Pro Bowl returner Eddie Drummond was released by Pittsburgh on Saturday, but wasn't pursued by Carolina.
Jones could help jump-start a return unit that has struggled for two years. After ranking near the bottom of most return categories in 2006, the Panthers selected Robinson in the fourth round of the 2007 draft.
While Robinson improved later in the season, he averaged only 8.7 yards on punts (15th in the league) and 23 yards on kickoffs (27th). The Panthers were 28th in the league with an average starting position of about the 26-yard line after kickoffs.
Jones is listed as a receiver but has never caught a pass in the NFL. Releasing Thompson leaves the Panthers thin there with Steve Smith set to begin a two-game suspension for punching teammate Ken Lucas at training camp. The Panthers hope to get receiver D.J. Hackett (toe) back this week.
Notes: The Panthers completed their eight-man practice squad by signing former Carolina FB Billy Latsko, DE Angelo Craig and WR Titus Ryan. ... After getting Monday off, the Panthers will return to practice Tuesday, the beginning of four straight days of workouts before the team leaves for San Diego Friday afternoon.