Strong safety Brandon Meriweather has yet to play a game after battling knee injuries in the preseason and in regular season practices. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Washington Redskins strong safety Brandon Meriweather said Wednesday he expects to practice fully this week and will push himself to determine whether he can make his season debut when the Redskins host the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

 Sidelined all of this season with sprained ligaments in his left knee, Meriweather has twice tried to return to action, only to suffer setbacks. He first injured the knee during the preseason, sat out two weeks and was cleared to practice fully the Monday before the regular season opener, but re-injured the knee in that practice.

 In Week 4, Meriweather was set to come back, but injured the knee again in a freak pre-game collision with receiver Aldrick Robinson.

 The 5-foot-11, 197-pound Meriweather has missed the last four games, and this time, he and the team’s medical staff have taken an ultra-cautious approach.

 Meriweather practiced one day last week to test out his knee, and after experiencing some soreness, watched the final two sessions of the week.

 “Last week, I think was a great week for me,” Meriweather said. “I went out there, I got to be around my teammates, got to practice a little bit. Got to get back in the flow of things, but it was a good week. Unfortunately, I had to sit out the next couple days. But I’m looking for this week to be better.”

 Meriweather said that he has improved significantly since the Tampa game, and that he has gotten better since last week as well.

 “A lot better? Yes. Am I ready to play? I don’t know yet,” he said. “That’s something I hope I’m going to figure out this week.”

Signed as a free agent in the spring, Meriweather was expected to solidify the strong safety position held by LaRon Landry, who was in and out of the lineup with an Achilles’ injury the last two seasons. A two-time Pro Bowl player with New England in 2009 and 2010, Meriweather had a disappointing 2011 campaign with Chicago and came to Washington aiming to revive his career.

But so far, he hasn’t had a chance. The Redskins play the Panthers Sunday and then have a bye. The team is trying to decide whether to allow Meriweather to play this week, or wait until Week 11 against Philadelphia.

 “That’s part of [the evaluation] this week,” Meriweather said. “I’m going to go out, push it a little bit and if it goes good, y’all might see me out there. If it goes bad, I’ll be out another week. Either way it goes, I’ve got two weeks before our next game, so it should be OK.”

 A healthy Meriweather would be much welcomed by a defense that ranks last in the NFL, surrendering 314.3 passing yards a game. Meriweather thinks he can make a difference. But he said the team’s struggles don’t necessarily make his desire to come back any stronger.

 “I love the game of football,” Meriweather explained. “Whether we were the No. 1 defense or the 32nd defense, I’m still going to try to get back out there. It’s not just that we’re struggling against the pass. It’s just the fact that I want to get out there with the guys I went through camp with, the guys I look at in the face every day and know I can’t help, the guys who give their all and know that I’m watching.”