Panthers expect to have Smith and Stewart back next week


The Panthers get the weekend off, and when they come back to work, they’ll have a pair of key contributors back on the field.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the plan was to have wide receiver Steve Smith and running back Jonathan Stewart back, along with defensive tackle Colin Cole when they practice next Wednesday in advance of their Divisional Round playoff game.

That’s a huge boost for an offense that has stalled a bit down the stretch.

Smith’s coming off a PCL sprain that kept him out of the regular season finale, so winning the NFC South and getting the No. 2 seed was a huge boost for him Stewart has missed the last three games with a knee problem.

The Panthers are playing defense as well as anyone in the league lately, and getting Smith back in particular is a necessity.