Rivera calls practice audible; Benjamin still out

CHARLOTTE – Head coach Ron Rivera altered Thursday's schedule to give his players more rest leading up to Sunday's game at Green Bay.

The Panthers practiced in shorts and shells, and the session started an hour earlier to get the players out of the facility faster.

"We played five full quarters on Sunday, and yesterday the guys practiced very well. But it was a hard practice," Rivera explained. "So the idea today was to get them in (early). Get them off their feet as quick as possible. Give them a chance to rest, re-hydrate to be ready to roll this weekend.

"The players seemed to like it. Practice seemed to flow very well. We got everything accomplished we needed to."

Carolina still has several injury concerns as game day draws near. Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin (concussion) did not practice for the second consecutive day and watched from the side.

"He continues in the (concussion) protocol. He did very well with the independent (doctor) yesterday," Rivera said. "Today, he did the next step with our guys and seemed to be doing very well. We'll see how he is tomorrow. Hopefully, he passes (the next step)."

Cornerback Josh Norman also has a concussion and Rivera is not yet sure of either players' availability for Sunday's game.

"(Josh) is finishing up the protocol," Rivera said. "We'll see how he is. He has done a nice job, but it all comes down to how the independent feels."

Running backs Fozzy Whittaker (thigh) and Darrin Reaves (calf) missed practice Thursday, and their status is in question as well.

Fortunately for Carolina, running back Jonathan Stewart (knee) had another strong day and remains on track to play for the first time since Week 3.

"He looked very good," Rivera said. "He took an increased amount of reps, so we are feeling pretty confident right now."

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