Stewart suffered what appeared to be a serious ankle injury prior to the half in the Panthers’ third preseason game against the New York Jets on August 26th. Reports indicated the next day that all X-rays came back negative and it would only be a matter of time and rest before Stewart returned to action.
The Panthers did sit Stewart in the preseason finale last Thursday night and as of right now, no word has come out on whether or not he will be ready to go by the time Sunday rolls around.
Stewart apparently worked out on Monday, but has not officially practiced with the team since the August 26th injury.
Stewart is a true bruising back and will be relied on more this season than ever before in this his fifth year in the NFL. A work horse his entire career, Stewart has participated in all 16 regular season games three out of four seasons played; only missing two games in 2010.
Despite career lows last season in both rushing attempts (142) and yards (761), Stewart still managed to achieve a career high average of 5.4 yards per carry. Good enough to earn himself a huge contract at the beginning of training camp. A contract worth $36.5 million over five years, $22.5 million of which is guaranteed.
The Panthers made an investment in Stewart and they need to protect him. Yes, the Panthers are opening up on the road against a division rival, but its still only week one.
Even if Stewart feels great and says he’s ready, the Panthers should consider the long haul ahead and allow their prized running back another couple of days off before returning him to full speed.
It can’t hurt. Imagine the let down if something were to happen to Stewart in the opener, something that could have been prevented if given more rest.
The right call on Stewart should be to keep him out for week one. Let the recovery continue and hopefully he will be ready to go by week two.