Carolina Panthers running back Jonathan Stewart is recovering quietly from a knee sprain and said Monday he feels pretty comfortable.
Stewart, in his sixth season, hasnt practiced since spraining his MCL against the Saints on Dec. 8 but said he expects to practice Wednesday.
The Panthers face the San Francisco 49ers at 1 p.m. Sunday at Bank of America Stadium in the second round of the NFC playoffs.
Its all up to what the trainers think about how I practice on Wednesday, said Stewart about his availability for Sundays home playoff game against the 49ers. I cant get ahead of myself.
Stewart ran on the sideline during practice Monday after weeks of rehab inside the building. He said hes been running at full speed with little to no pain since last week.
Since Thursday Ive been running more and more, and Ive gotten more comfortable as Ive been going, Stewart said.
Stewart had 180 yards on 48 rushes during an injury-shortened regular season. He missed the first eight weeks of the season recovering from offseason ankle surgery before missing the final three games of the season.
Running back DeAngelo Williams is the expected starter no matter Stewarts health for Sunday.
Tight end Ben Hartsock (knee) and safety Quintin Mikell (thumb) also practiced Monday. Mikell has practiced with a cast on his right hand since last week.
Interview with a coordinator: Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott met with the Washington Redskins during the weekend to interview for the teams vacant head coaching spot, but he offered no clues Monday as to how the interview went.
McDermott didnt give details on the interview or say when he expected to hear from the team. He said it was an honor to be considered.
But my focus youve got to understand, weve worked so hard for this opportunity, he said. Weve got a big opportunity in front of us, so weve got a lot of work to do this week.
News of McDermotts interview broke early last week, and he told players in the defensive meeting Wednesday that he was taking the interview but that he still was focused on the task at hand in Carolina.
I get paid by the Carolina Panthers to do a job, McDermott said. And thats what Im here to do, and do it to the best of my ability. Anything outside of that, I did on my own time. Thats 15 years of preparation, not just one week of preparation. Its an honor. But were moving forward, and Im focused on this football team and this football game.
Hardy absent: Defensive end Greg Hardy missed practice Monday with what Panthers coach Ron Rivera said was a bout of bronchitis.
(Team internist) Dr. (Rob) Heyer just happened to be in today and came in and saw him. So we just thought with the cold weather and everything, we didnt want to have him breathing in the cold air, Rivera said.
Rivera expected Hardy to check in Tuesday morning for an update on his progress.
Hardy finished the regular season by tying the franchises single-season sack mark with 15. He had three tackles, and one tackle for a loss, in Week 10 against the 49ers.
Underdog Panthers: The Panthers opened as a one-point favorite against the 49ers on Jan. 12 in the betting lines, but that didnt last long.
As of early evening Monday, San Francisco was a consensus two-point favorite among the top betting services.
Some of the top services have the 49ers as a one- or two-point favorite, and the consensus over/under is 42 points. That is 23 points more than the first meeting between the teams but still more than five points fewer than any other divisional round game.
Its kind of funny, Rivera said. Being the underdog takes the pressure off us and puts the pressure on them. Now the expectations are for them. Were at home, were going to show up and do the best we can. Its a big week, we know it is, and were going to show up on Sunday and itll be a lot of fun.
All black: The Panthers are pushing out their Back in Black campaign for Sundays game, and they want the fans to be part of it.
Carolina will be in its all-black uniforms, and a message on the Panthers official Twitter account encouraged fans to wear black for the game.
Collegiate allegiances: Panthers kicker Graham Gano placed a Florida State sweatshirt in the locker of Cam Newton and took a picture of it on the day of FSUs national title game against Auburn.
Newton, a former Tiger, wore an orange long-sleeved shirt under his jersey at practice. Gano, a Florida State alumnus, said hed be watching the game with his wife at home.
I didnt even want to have the chance of wearing orange, Gano said of a possible wager with Newton. Not even just Auburn. Orange with Florida is a no-go.
Staff writer Joseph Person contributed.
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