Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart’s long absence from the field is nearing its end.
Coach Ron Rivera said Monday that Stewart will return to practice on Tuesday. Stewart has been on the physically unable to perform list since the start of training camp after having surgery on both his ankles during the offseason.
Rivera said he was unsure about Stewart’s chances of playing in Week Eight, but it would seem highly unlikely. The Panthers play the Buccaneers on Thursday and the practices leading up to the game won’t be particularly rigorous ones. After the Thursday game, however, Stewart would get a full week in before the Panthers face the Falcons in Week Nine.
Stewart is returning at a moment when things have started to go right for the Panthers. They’ve won two straight games by a combined score of 65-25 by riding an offense that didn’t turn the ball over in either game. Their run game never really got going against the Rams, finishing with 102 yards on 38 attempts, but it’s been a strength this season. A healthy Stewart would only increase that strength and help the Panthers in their effort to move above .500 for the first time under Ron Rivera.