Rivera: Barner back, Stewart on track for return

AP

Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams has thrived in the backfield so far this season, but he might be getting some company in the next few weeks.

The Panthers are easing into a bye week, and it appears some reinforcements are on the way.

According to Joe Person of the Charlotte Observer, rookie running back Kenjon Barner returned to practice Tuesday for the first time since a preseason foot injury.

The better news is that coach Ron Rivera said Jonathan Stewart is on track to return from the physically unable to perform list when he’s eligible in Week Seven. Stewart had offseason ankle surgery, and wasn’t going to be ready for the start of the regular season.

Without those two, Williams is getting almost all of the non-Cam Newton rushes, averaging 20 carries a game. He’s third in the league in rushing, with 291 yards.

How they’ll manage the snap counts will be interesting as the season progresses, because Williams can get a little pouty when being underutilized, and Stewart has proven that when he’s well, he deserves plenty of work as well. Barner showed flashes of change-of-pace potential during the preseason, and gives them another option.