Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera indicated again Friday that running back Jonathan Stewart will play for the first time this season Sunday against the Falcons.
There’s just the whole matter of making it official.
Rivera said the Panthers will activate Stewart from the physically unable to perform list on Saturday before the 4 p.m. deadline, declining to speak in absolute terms because he didn’t want to get ahead of himself.
Carolina will have to make a corresponding move to the 53-man roster to make room for Stewart, though Rivera gave no indication of what the move – releasing a player or moving someone to injured reserve – would be.
Rivera reiterated DeAngelo Williams, who is 10th in the NFL in rushing yards with 477 yards this season, is the team’s starter, but he expects six to 10 touches for Stewart on Sunday.
“What you’d love to see is DeAngelo get in one of those rhythms,” Rivera said. “He gets four, five, six carries in eight plays, Jonathan goes in and he gets a couple of carries, some pass stuff. He comes out, Michael Tolbert goes in and does his thing and then bam, we go back to 21 personnel (two running backs, one tight end) and you’ve got DeAngelo and Tolbert in there for a few more. Somewhere along the line we bring in Kenjon (Barner) and he gets a couple snaps.”
Williams has been battling a quad injury suffered in the Tampa Bay game last week. He practiced in a limited capacity Friday but is listed as probable for the game.
Edwards is back: Veteran defensive tackle Dwan Edwards is slated to make his first appearance in a game since Week 2, and Rivera said it couldn’t come at a better time.
Colin Cole will still get the start at defensive tackle despite Edwards’ return from a thigh injury that has sidelined him for six weeks. But by getting Edwards back, the Panthers will have a deeper rotation to help spell rookies Star Lotulelei and Kawann Short.
“It’ll take some of those snaps off the rookies and that’s probably the biggest thing you need to do,” Rivera said. “They will hit the rookie wall. It’s inevitable. I don’t think in my time in the league in 26 years has a rookie not hit the wall. I think the timing’s great and it’ll be nice to take some of pressure off the young guys.”
Edwards participated fully in practice Friday for the second consecutive day and is listed as probable. Also listed as probable are linebacker Thomas Davis (shoulder), defensive end Charles Johnson (groin) and wide receiver Marvin McNutt (ankle).
Linebacker Chase Blackburn (foot) was limited in practice and is listed as questionable. Should he be unable to play, rookie linebacker A.J. Klein and Jordan Senn will split the reps at strongside linebacker. Klein would get the nod in run situations while Senn would be used more in passing situations.
Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9