Panthers: Stewart wants to shake off injuries
By Mike CRanston
CHARLOTTE óJonathan Stewart remains perfect in two offseasons with the Carolina Panthers.
Two injuries, zero practices.
“You’re going to take some teasing. They’re out there busting their butt with me just sitting on the sideline for the second year in a row,” Stewart said moments after the Panthers concluded optional workouts this week. “I’m really taking the heat for that.”
Stewart, Carolina’s first-round pick in 2008, had little trouble after being held out of drills last year following toe surgery. He rushed for a rookie franchise record 836 yards and 10 touchdowns, combining with DeAngelo Williams to give Carolina the NFL’s top rushing tandem.
But Stewart was told the lingering toe pain led him to his current ailment: pain in his left Achilles’ tendon. Stewart said it got worse during Carolina’s offseason conditioning program earlier this year.
“I was overcompensating from the surgery on my toe,” Stewart said. “It just lingered throughout the season. It just kind of flared up, so I’m pretty much staying off of it to just let it heal.”
It left Stewart standing around for a three-day minicamp last month and for all 12 optional workouts this month. But Stewart, who did some light jogging with his teammates at the end of Tuesday’s practice, promises he’ll be doing more than watching once training camp opens Aug. 2.
“I’m going to be up and running when camp starts,” Stewart said. “I’ll be ready.”
The Panthers need him. While Williams’ career year of 1,515 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns captured the spotlight in 2008, the stocky Stewart gave the Panthers another option that wore out opposing defenses and helped Carolina go 12-4 and win the NFC South.
Williams and Stewart had the most yards rushing by NFL teammates since 1984, yet it’s difficult for Stewart to focus on anything other than the Panthers’ embarrassing 33-13 home loss to Arizona in the NFC divisional playoffs. Falling behind early, the Panthers abandoned the running game and Stewart managed just 12 yards on three carries. Carolina finished with 75 yards rushing.
“This offense, and this team in general, is hungry from last year,” Stewart said. “Coach (John Fox) just got done talking about the Cardinals game last year, and how that bitter taste has been in his mouth since the past season. It’s definitely something on everyone’s mind.”