CHARLOTTE – With quarterback Cam Newton poised to return from an injury, the Panthers aren't sure if running back DeAngelo Williams will be able to play in Sunday's home opener because of an injury.
While Newton continued to show signs of improvement on the practice field Friday and is listed as probable, Williams missed practice for the second consecutive day after tightness developed in his thigh following Wednesday's practice.
"DeAngelo ran in the pool today, but he didn't practice," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I'm concerned. He's a running back, and he's got to rely on that burst.
"Based on how he ran today, we're going to really have to see how he is tomorrow morning. If he's just the slightest bit hampered by it…we'll see."
Rivera, however, isn't concerned about where the Panthers would turn if Williams isn't able to play against the Detroit Lions. Williams led the Panthers with 72 yards on 14 carries in the season opener, but Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert combined for 16 carries, and preseason standout Fozzy Whittaker is waiting in the wings.
"The nice thing is we've got Jonathan, Michael Tolbert and Fozzy Whittaker. We feel very good about that group of guys," Rivera said. "We'll make a decision based on what I hear from the trainers, the doctors, DeAngelo, the coordinator and position coach."
That's similar to the process Rivera went through with Newton a week ago, but he doesn't expect a repeat this week. Rivera said there's "no doubt" that Newton will start coming off a preseason rib injury and offseason ankle surgery.
"He's gotten progressively better," Rivera said. "His rhythm is back. His timing with his receivers seems to be pretty sound right now. His decision-making was good today."
Along with Newton, tight end Greg Olsen and defensive end Greg Hardy are probable. Both missed practice time this week for personal reasons but should play. The Panthers are required to include them in the injury report because they missed practice time.
Rivera didn't elaborate but said that Olsen has received "positive reports" regarding his son, T.J., who has been recovering from a scheduled heart procedure.
A trio of Williamses are questionable. In addition to DeAngelo, offensive tackle Garry Williams missed practice with a hip concern that just cropped up. Linebacker Jason Williams (thigh) is also questionable, though he had full participation in Friday's practice after not practicing Wednesday or Thursday.
"Garry Williams didn't practice today. His hip was sore," Rivera said. "We wanted to check it out and make sure it wasn't anything bad – it's a little enflamed right now – so he went and got an MRI. We're waiting on the results."