CHARLOTTE – Running back Jonathan Stewart suffered an MCL injury in Sunday night's loss to the New Orleans Saints. The extent of the tear and the timeline for the injury are not yet certain, but head coach Ron Rivera said Stewart could return before the end of the regular season.
Rivera ruled Stewart out for Sunday's game against the New York Jets.
"We'll get a better feel for it in the next ten days," Rivera said. "It wasn't the ACL – that much I know, which is huge. Very happy for Jonathan that there is a bit of good news."
Stewart suffered the injury in the third quarter when he took a direct hit to the knee from Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis at the end of a 16-yard catch.
After suffering a season-ending ankle in Week 12 last year, Stewart had offseason surgery on both ankles that forced him out of training camp and the preseason entirely. He was not activated from the physically unable to perform list until Week 9 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Stewart has rushed 48 times for 180 yards and recorded seven catches for 44 yards in 2013. He started Week 12 versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with running back DeAngelo Williams out due to a quad injury.
Williams returned to the starting lineup Sunday against the Saints. Rivera thought Williams ran well, gaining 52 yards on 13 carries.
Fortunately for the Panthers, there is depth at the running back position. In addition to Williams, who will be relied on heavily, Carolina can turn to Mike Tolbert, who has four rushing touchdowns, and rookie Kenjon Barner, who has played in five games this season.