Stewart signs five-year extension

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CHARLOTTE - The Panthers have signed running back Jonathan Stewart to a five-year contract extension, setting the stage for the two most prolific running backs in team history to continue causing "Double Trouble" for years to come.

A year ago, the Panthers signed DeAngelo Williams – the leading rusher in franchise history - to a five-year extension. Moments before the preseason opener against the Houston Texans, the Panthers announced the deal with Stewart, the second-leading rusher in franchise history.

"I'm happy and blessed to have this opportunity," Stewart said. "I just want to thank Marty Hurney, Mr. Jerry Richardson and the entire Panthers organization for believing in me and getting this done.

"This is a special team and great running back group. I love Charlotte, and I'm glad this will be home."

With Stewart, Williams and quarterback Cam Newton carrying the load last season, the Panthers ranked third in the NFL with 150.5 rushing yards per game. In 2009, Stewart's second NFL season, he and Williams became the first teammates in league history to both run for more than 1,100 yards in the same year.

Since 2008, Stewart's first year in the league, the Panthers have produced 9,189 rushing yards, most in the NFL.

"We are thrilled to be able to extend Jonathan for five additional years. He is a perfect fit for our organization," Panthers general manager Marty Hurney said. "He is a playmaker who can make the difference in games, and we have seen the impact he and DeAngelo Williams have had on our team."

Stewart has amassed 3,500 rushing yards on 725 carries with 26 touchdowns in four NFL seasons since the Panthers selected him out of the University of Oregon with the 13th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. On Dec. 27, 2009, he set a club record for single-game rushing with 206 yards at the New York Giants.

He also has 81 receptions for 702 yards and three touchdowns, including 47 catches for 413 yards last season – both team records for running backs.

The Panthers' running game has the potential to be even more potent in 2012 with the addition of fullback Mike Tolbert, a bruiser who scored 19 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons with the San Diego Chargers.

"When you watch that group of guys, they are all diverse and they are all going to give us something different and bring something different to the table," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "DeAngelo is our home run hitter. He's the guy that can go 60 yards clean cut. Jonathan is our inside power guy that rumbles for 25 or 30 yards. And then you look at what you've got with Mike Tolbert, and he and Jonathan have some very similar traits."

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