CHARLOTTE – If running back DeAngelo Williams' foot injury had been the only injury that the Panthers had to take into account, Williams' season might not be over just yet.
A handful of injuries, however, forced the team's hand, and now Williams is just trying to lend a hand wherever he can while continuing to heal his foot.
"I did try to talk them out of it, but once you have bodies go down like we did, what can you tell them?" said Williams, who was placed on injured reserve on Nov. 17. "I definitely understood their point of view.
"I'm still there for the guys now, being a positive voice. The season is over for me, but as a cheerleader, I'm doing my part."
Williams is getting close to full health, but two weeks ago, the Panthers were in no shape to wait it out. With 10 players on the injury report on Nov. 17 creating serious needs at running back, quarterback and along the offensive line, the Panthers put Williams on IR to make room for healthy players.
Williams injured the arch in his right foot in the final minutes of the Panthers' lone victory, a 23-20 triumph over the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 24.
"I was trying to walk it off on the sideline, but it didn't quite leave, and then it got worse the next day," said Williams, who didn't initially think the injury was serious. "It's my arch. It's a sprain and strain of the muscles and the ligaments."
Time rather than surgery is the best cure for Williams' injury, and he's well on his way back to 100 percent. Williams said he recently resumed running activities.
In Williams' absence, the Panthers' running game finally has gotten its footing. The offensive line has meshed, and second-year running back Mike Goodson has filled in more than admirably.
"He's been playing well for the last three or four weeks," Williams said. "He's a heck of a tailback, and he's going to continue to get better.
"I've told him, 'Just keep fighting. Show your speed. Show your talent. Show what God gave you.' He's done that so far."
With Goodson's growth, last Sunday's 98-yard effort from Jonathan Stewart in his return from a concussion, and the flexibility that Tyrell Sutton provides when healthy, the Panthers backfield seems more crowded than ever.
What does that mean for the future of Williams, who will become a free agent after the season?
"I think it's a proven fact that you need more than a couple of tailbacks to get through seasons sometimes, so why not?" said Williams, the Panthers' first-round draft choice in 2006 and the franchise's leading rusher. "I live for the present and hope for the future. I'm trying to get my foot right, get back healthy, and then I'll work on those decisions.
"This season's not even over yet. I'm still fighting for the guys. I'm a Carolina Panther now, and that's all I can think about."