CHARLOTTE – After missing the first seven games of the season while recovering from offseason ankle surgeries, running back Jonathan Stewart has every right to feel frustrated now that he'll miss more time with a partially torn MCL in his knee.
"It's tough," Stewart said. "I felt like I was getting in rhythm from the ankle and being out ever since last year. It's just another opportunity for me to overcome this obstacle.
"That's just the approach I've got to have for the team's sake and my sake."
But as frustrating as this injury is, Stewart acknowledges that it could have been worse. And in that respect, he lucked out.
"There was definitely relief," Stewart said. "You hear about ACLs and the impact it has on guys. Learning what the MCL process is like, it was definitely relieving."
Head coach Ron Rivera reiterated Wednesday that Stewart may have a chance to return before the regular season ends. He'll be re-evaluated in a week, but Rivera confirmed that it's possible to play despite the injury.
"Yes, especially a partial (tear)," Rivera said. "He'll have to tape it up and probably put a brace on it or something like that. I love Jonathan's attitude, and I'm pretty optimistic about (his chances of returning)."
Said Stewart: "If I can get back as soon as possible and if we make this playoff push, I'll be there to help the team."
The Panthers are anxious to get him back but know the backfield is in good hands.
"I feel very confident in the guys that we have to take up the spot when unfortunate things like that happen," center Ryan Kalil said. "I know Stew will be fighting to get back and in the meantime, we have some pretty good backs to take over."
As for the hit that Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis delivered to cause the injury in last week's game, Stewart said he harbors no resentment.
"It's a physical game," he said. "You wish you could go back and run completely to the sideline. But that's the nature of the game, and I'm a physical runner. He took his precautions, tackled me low. That's part of the game."
THE RIGHT GUARD: Guard Chris Scott, who has missed the last five games with a knee injury, returned to practice Wednesday.
"Chris looked pretty good, moved around well. That was good to see," Rivera said.
Rivera said Nate Chandler will remain the starter at right guard and Scott will provide depth at the position when he's ready for game action.
"We'll stay with Nate," Rivera said. "Nate has played very well for us and done some really good things. With Chris coming off the knee, if we don't have to overexpose him that would be good. That's what we'll try to do with him."