Run game gearing up without Williams


CHARLOTTE – Running back Ryan Kalil won't play Sunday at the New Orleans Saints, but the emergence of Christian McCaffrey and a measure of stability along the offensive line could put the Panthers in position for a strong game on the ground regardless.

In addition, the likely return of defensive tackle Star Lotulelei could boost Carolina's ability to control the Saints' impressive running game.

Head coach Ron Rivera said Williams is improving from a broken bone in his right hand suffered last Sunday at Minnesota but there "just wasn't enough time" for him to be ready for action.

That could mean more carries for Stewart, coming off a 12-carry, 85-yard performance against the Vikings, and more chances for Fozzy Whittaker. The backs should be running behind the same offensive line for the second consecutive game, the first time that's happened since Weeks 5 and 6.

"Defensively we've done some good things lately, and offensively we're starting to see it. We're certainly seeing it with Jonathan," Rivera said. "We'd like to give Jonathan the right amount of carries, depending on the flow of the game, but Fozzy will get in, too. There are some things that Fozzy does that we like. He's a playmaker."

Offensive lineman Amini Silatolu is out with a knee injury for the second consecutive game, but Lotulelei is probable after missing the last two games with an ankle injury. Lotulelei fully participated in practice Friday for the first time since suffering the injury at Philadelphia on Monday Night Football in Week 10.

Tight end Greg Olsen was limited in practice again Friday. Olsen is dealing with bursitis in his knee and is questionable, but Rivera expects Olsen to play in his 123rd consecutive game.

"He moved around pretty well all things considered, and we expect him to get better and better the next couple of days," Rivera said. "He's a mentally tough young man, a physically tough guy man. He's done a lot of good things, is having a great year all things considered. He's most certainly a bright spot for us."

Center Ryan Kalil and defensive end Kony Ealy returned to practice Friday after being sent home Thursday with a stomach virus. They're probable along with defensive end Mario Addison (foot).

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