Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart (28) runs as Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebackers Jonathan Casillas (52) and Lavonte David (54) defend in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Jonathan Stewart out until at least Week 17, not practicing today

Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart has a wealth of talent, but it’s sad to see that he can’t bank on it anymore due to chronic ankle injuries that are severely derailing the 26-year-old’s career. It seems hard to believe that Stewart is just 26 due to all the punishment his legs have taken lately, and he suffered a torn MCL against the New Orleans Saints in Week 14. Even though it wasn’t another ankle injury, a torn MCL is definitely not a laughing matter, and it probably makes more sense for the Panthers to just hold Stewart out for the rest of the regular season.

He’s going to miss this week’s game and isn’t practicing today, but the Panthers are still holding out hope that he can return in Week 17 against the rival Atlanta Falcons. The Charlotte Observer’s Joe Person reports that Panthers head coach Ron Rivera stated Stewart’s “earliest” return date would be that game against the Falcons.

While winning a division game would be nice and could be important if they need a tie-breaker win over the Saints for a playoff bye, the Panthers need to remember that Stewart’s health is their No. 1 priority. MCL sprains usually take at least three weeks to heal, and it’s best to wait longer with a chronically-injured player, especially with the playoffs looming ahead. The Panthers should also be able to defeat the Falcons with ease without Stewart, so they really shouldn’t play him in Week 17. It’s not a surprise to hear that Rivera is holding the door open on that, but I wouldn’t expect him to be back by then.

Stewart can safely be dropped in most fantasy leagues.

Tags: Carolina Panthers Injury Report Jonathan Stewart

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