As Stewart heals, run game in good hands

CHARLOTTE – Running back Jonathan Stewart says he's trying to return from a foot injury as soon as possible, but head coach Ron Rivera plans to exercise as much patience as possible.

With the way rookie Cameron Artis-Payne handled his chance to carry the load, patience might be the best virtue.

"He looked real good, just like we expected," Stewart said. "He's been coached well, and he did his job.

"It's tough to be injured. I'm taking it day by day, just trying to get better."

Stewart didn't practice Tuesday after sitting out Sunday's victory over the New York Giants with a foot injury suffered a week earlier.

"Jonathan wasn't out there, but he's feeling good," Rivera said. "He's out of the boot now, walking around without it. He's coming along, but it's only been a week, and Cameron Artis-Payne played well.

"We're going to be cautious, going to be smart, and we'll see how he is later in the week."

Overall, the Panthers have been fortunate with the health of their backs this season, especially compared to last season when Stewart missed three games, DeAngelo Williams missed 10 and fullback Mike Tolbert missed eight.

"We've had some tough breaks the past couple of the years, but for the most part we've been healthy – and hopefully we get Jonathan back this week," Tolbert said. "Cameron has been ready, but when you're behind Jonathan Stewart, there's not a lot that you can get done.

"He really took advantage of his opportunity, and he knows he's going to be called on more and more as we go down the stretch. He'll be ready."

Artis-Payne didn't start Sunday's game and had just 16 rushing yards on four carries at halftime, but in the second half he gained 43 yards on 10 carries and caught two passes for another 34 yards. He entered the game with 31 rushing yards and no receptions.

"It's about just getting comfortable in an actual game setting," Artis-Payne said. "That's my first time with some extended work, so it was really about getting comfortable in a live game as opposed to practice. It definitely was exciting.

"Nothing can substitute for actual experience. The more experience I get, the better I'll be able to play. I don't know if I'll get a chance to play this week, but if I do, I'm looking forward to it."

The Panthers didn't issue an injury report Tuesday, but Rivera said that defensive tackle Kyle Love is in the concussion protocol.

"He sustained a hit during the game, and they took him off the field," Rivera said.

View the top photos by photographer Kent Smith from Carolina's game against New York.

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