Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart finally got back on the practice field Tuesday, but getting on the field appears to be at least another week away.
Stewart practiced for the first time in nearly a year after offseason ankle surgery, and the Panthers aren’t going to push him into a short week against the Buccaneers, instead targeting the Week Nine game against the Falcons.
“The process of something like offseason surgery that I had, the expectation was it would be something quick and easy and get back to what I’d been doing,” Stewart said, via Jonathan Jones of the Charlotte Observer. “But then it turned into this long process. I’ve learned a lot about myself, what I can endure and a lot of things about my love of the game and being around people like this.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said they were encouraged by Stewart’s work, but wanted to see how he responds to the practice in the coming days before they made a decision. The Panthers have three weeks to activate him from the PUP list now that he’s started the clock on his return.
Rivera also said that when he does come back, it won’t change the starting status of DeAngelo Williams.
“Weve got a guy right now that has established himself as our premiere back,” Rivera said. “DeAngelo has earned that right to continue to be that guy and he will continue to be that guy.”
Williams has been productive this season (434 yards), but the Panthers have made a commitment to playing a physical style, so getting their more physical runner back will only help.