Carolina Panthers No. 2 running back Jonathan Stewart went down with an MCL sprain in the team’s Week 14 loss against the New Orleans Saints, and he missed the final three games of the regular season. The Panthers won all three of those games, and Stewart was an obvious no-go for all of those contests. Not only was he not healthy enough to play, but the Panthers knew that it would be unwise to risk the oft-injured back’s (he’s one of the most injury-prone players in the league, but it’s usually ankle- not knee- injuries that plague him) health and that resting him before the playoffs would be the best policy.
Well, the playoffs have arrived, but the Panthers will have a bye week so that guys like Stewart and Steve Smith can rest up from their injuries (Smith suffered a PCL sprain in Week 16). This bye was the productive of two close, hard-fought wins over division rivals in the final two games, and it means that Stewart will have over a month to recover from his knee sprain; it would be a shock for him to miss the team’s first playoff game.
While the Panthers are going to hold Smith out of practice this week in an effort to get him healthy, the Charlotte Observer’s Joe Person reports that Jonathan Stewart is at the Panthers walkthrough today. This isn’t an actual practice session, but it’s a great sign that Stewart will be ready to play in the divisional round.