CHARLOTTE – Running back Chris Ogbonnaya felt like a true member of the team on Wednesday. He practiced with the Panthers for the first time and received his nickname from quarterback Cam Newton – Obi-Wan Kenobi.
"Cam is a very energetic guy from what I've been told," Ogbonnaya said with a smile. "Just looking forward to the opportunity."
Ogbonnaya, who has played in 46 games with 660 career rushing yards and 714 career receiving yards, fills an immediate need for a Carolina team struggling to field healthy running backs. At 6-foot, 225-pounds, he can play running back and fullback. And as a former Cleveland Brown, he has experience in a similar scheme.
"Chris had a good day. He's a smart young man. He's been in a very similar system. There is a lot of overlap with the terminology," head coach Ron Rivera said. "He seemed to assimilate very nicely to it."
Ogbonnaya said he felt pretty comfortable at his first practice since being released by the Browns in the final roster cutdown.
"This is my sixth year in the league so I've played a little bit of ball," Ogbonnaya said. "I can do my best to pick things up as fast as possible and get ready."
The Panthers may in fact need him to play right away.
"You look at it – we've got our top two fullbacks down and our top three running backs down," Rivera said. "That's kind of the scariest thing. It does hit in waves sometimes. It happens."
Rivera said the Panthers will likely need Ogbonnaya, who has started at both running back and fullback, to spell running back Darrin Reaves and play a role on special teams when Carolina hosts the Chicago Bears.
With some additional studying, Ogbonnaya is confident he'll be ready.
"Whenever you get that next chance, you have to do your best and move forward," Ogbonnaya said. "If my number is called I'll be ready."
INJURY UPDATES: Running back DeAngelo Williams and tight end Richie Brockel did not practice with high ankle sprains, and Rivera has already declared them out for this week's game.
Running back Jonathan Stewart (knee) was limited. Running back Fozzy Whittaker (thigh) did not participate but is expected to practice on Thursday.
"Stew looked OK, a little tentative," Rivera said. "He's out there running around with pads on, and that's the first big step. He took some reps and he's working his way through it. Each day we are going to increase the load and see how he handles it."
Defensive end Charles Johnson (hip) did not practice, but Rivera is confident he'll play on Sunday.
"He stayed off of it today and worked with the trainers," Rivera said.
Lastly, linebacker Thomas Davis (hip) practiced in full and is expected to return to action Sunday after missing Week 4 at Baltimore.