D'Onta Foreman thankful for day off, and opportunity

D'Onta Foreman

CHARLOTTE — D'Onta Foreman is only 26. It just seems like it took him a long time to get to this point.

So while he doesn't feel like an old guy at all, he isn't going to say no to one of the perks of experience.

The Panthers running back was able to watch practice Wednesday — just a rest day; there was nothing wrong with him, no injury that needed time to heal. Just the kind of maintenance day you get when you take (and apply) the kind of pounding he does.

"Some guys mess with me about it," Foreman said with a grin on Wednesday. "But it's cool, I guess. I definitely need it."

D'Onta Foreman

By Week 12, every player is going to be a bit beat up. But the way Foreman has condensed a season of work into the last five weeks also puts a particular burden on his body.

The still-young veteran had just seven carries in the first five games of the season, never more than two in a game.

When interim coach Steve Wilks took over, his workload more than doubled (even if that meant just five carries against the Rams to get him to 12 for the year), but the trade that sent Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers for future draft picks is what really triggered a change in lifestyle.

In the last five games, Foreman has gotten 90 carries, a dramatic change in workload to match the change in personality of the offense.

But the way he gets a lot of those yards is the reason he sometimes needs a break.

"I think just number one, just with the workload over a period of time, you know, you got to understand what the offensive line and running backs there's constant banging on each and every play," Wilks said of Foreman's rest on Wednesday. "So that was my thought process there."

D'Onta Foreman

Of course, players were still messing with him about it, particularly the other running backs and wide receiver DJ Moore. Guys who have been around here were used to seeing McCaffrey get Wednesdays off, but with the amount of work he got over the years, that was understood. So when Foreman was bundled up in sweats and sunglasses on the sideline Wednesday, they got their jokes in.

"He's been running hard, so I'll say yeah, I'd say he deserves it," Moore said. "I know the reason behind it, so he's cool. I just like messing with him."

Foreman's straight-ahead style, along with an offensive line that is built for it, has been one of the hallmarks of the last six games under Wilks. Foreman has 413 yards and four touchdowns over that span, and his ability to be a high-volume runner and initiate the contact has earned him the respect of his teammates and the occasional chance to breathe. He was averaging 3.1 yards per carry over the first six games, since getting the ball more the last five games, that number jumped to 4.6 yards per carry.

"He brings a lot of contact," Moore said. "It's cool to see. But sometimes you want him to go down, but he's going to run through somebody. It is what it is.

"He's a downhill runner. You can't do that all game and take hits from him, thinking he's going to slow down. I know he's going to keep trucking and doing what he's doing."

Foreman doesn't take the current situation for granted — the day off or the carries that led to it. So when they take the field Thursday morning, he'll be right back out there with the rest of them, ready to roll. After battling through injuries early in his career, he got the chance to replace an injured star in Tennessee last year, and helped the Titans survive Derrick Henry's absence by providing three 100-yard games in the second half of the season. Now, he's doing it again, and earning notice again.

Along with the occasional rest.

"It is weird, a little bit," Foreman said with a laugh about his day off. "I appreciate it, though.

"It's just about being prepared for the challenge and ready to go. I've always been a guy who wants to go out and run, so any time I get an opportunity to do that, I want to do the best I can do to help this team."

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