Panthers activate RB Jonathan Stewart off PUP
Stewart has yet to play this season after he spent the first seven games on the PUP list recovering from offseason surgery on both his ankles. The sixth-year pro hasn’t appeared in a game since last November, when he first suffered the ankle injury. He rushed for 336 yards on 93 carries with one touchdown and also added another 157 yards on 17 receptions and one receiving touchdown while being limited to nine games in 2012 due to ankle issues. But Stewart returned to practice in the past couple of weeks, meaning the Panthers are not activating a completely raw player still hoping to return to 100 percent health after struggling with ankle issues.
If Stewart plays against the Falcons this Sunday, it will be his first action in 11 months since initially sustaining the ankle injury. Stewart figures to be a key part of the Panthers’ backfield and will have an opportunity to split carries with running back DeAngelo Williams and fullback Mike Tolbert. Overall, it will be interesting to see the kind of load the Panthers expect Stewart to shoulder in his first game this season.
The former first-round pick is the franchise’ No.2 all-time rusher with 3,836 yards and 27 touchdowns on 818 carries in his first five seasons with the Panthers. Stewart also set the Panthers’ single-season record for catches (47) as well as receiving yards (413) by a running back in 2011.
However, Stewart’s return does not pose a threat to Williams’ position in the backfield, after he started the first seven games this season. Williams has 114 carries for 477 yards (averaging 4.2 yards per carry) and a touchdown at this point in the season.
With Stewart joining the 53-man roster, the Panthers waived reserve back Armond Smith, a special teams player who has been inactive for the past two games. In his limited playing time over five games this season, Smith rushed four times for five yards.