Carolina Panthers star RB Jonathan Stewart has been dealing with nagging ankle injuries for over a year now, and he was initially expected to be activated from the PUP list upon eligibility. But as Week 7 started to draw nearer, it became a reality that Stewart would have to return later than that date. While I think it is unrealistic for him to play in Thursday’s rivalry game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there is a chance that Stewart is able to suit up.
According to the Charlotte Observer’s Joe Person, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera stated that Jonathan Stewart will practice this week, but he is “unsure” as to whether or not Stewart will be able to face the Bucs. His expected return date is the Week 9 matchup against another NFC South team in the Atlanta Falcons, and it’s best for the Panthers not to rush a player as injury prone as Stewart. If they can’t defeat the Buccaneers without Stewart, then that would be a surprise for sure with the way both of these teams are trending.
It’s important for him to start practice this week and better gauge how his ankles feel, because there are definitely serious doubts as to whether or not Stewart can even hold up and make an impact this year. An effective Stewart is important, because DeAngelo Williams has tailed off over the last three games. After never dipping below 85 rushing yards in a game through the first three weeks, Williams has been unable to average four yards per carry in a game since.